Do You Want to Build a Cabin? (Doesn’t have to be a cabin . . . )


Because we’re planning a big, two-week family trip this summer and because my loyal Rocinante had to have a complete transmission flush, new front brakes, and various realignments and balances a week ago,* I can’t use any of my precious vacation time or nonexistent savings to go to any of the writing conferences and workshops I was hoping to attend.

So I’ve decided to run away to camp next month, in my brain.

If you dropped in around here last November, you already know (possibly more than you cared to) about my experience with National Novel Writing Month, during which writers of all ages, abilities, and levels of optimism pledge to write 50,000 words in one month to earn bragging rights and the first draft of a (short) novel they wrote themselves.  All it costs is time, effort, and (for some of us) semi-professional amounts of caffeine.

You also know (possibly more than you cared to) how much I enjoyed myself.

Imagine my excitement when I heard that the same organization is going to host a Camp next month!

It’s organized a little differently, but that’s all to the good:

  • Participants set their own word-count goal from 10,000 to 999,999 (or 334 to delusional per day) during the 30-day month.  You don’t have to complete the project, just the goal.
  • Editing and non-novel projects totally count: one hour of active editing equals 1,000 words.  One page of scripts and graphic novels equal 150-200 words.
  • The participants can go it alone or join “cabins” for support.  Cabins are 12-person writing groups that can be assigned either randomly or according to specific criteria (genre, age, goals), or created by the participants through invitations.

For my first try at Camp Nanowrimo, I’ve decided to set a 40 hour editing goal—a nanoEdmo—for Odd Duck, because 93 minutes of active editing a day seems completely reasonable with my current schedule and also the schedule I’m likely to have once I start my new job on April 13th.**

And for kicks and moral support, I thought I’d join a cabin.

Which is where y’all come in.

I originally set my criteria set for genre and goal, but then I thought about all those summer camps I went to as I child and how much better they were when I already knew people and they had been warned about knew me.***

So, if you would like to get a word-count goal or editing project off the ground (or keep one going) or or would like to try a different genre or format or whatever for one month with no pressure, sign up here.

And if you want to be cabin buddies, drop me a line either though e-mail or through the Campers message system (I’m Sarah W there, too).  In our cabin, everyone can have a top bunk and their own bathroom—there’s even an on-call barista/masseur!

Cabin assignments start in nine days and Camp starts in fifteen.  Plenty of time to decide!^

I’ll bring the graham crackers, you bring the marshmallows!

 Smore Yum


*All of which cost just enough to wipe out my vacation savings, but not quite enough to warrant trading him in for a newer model.

**So reasonable that I could/should/would have been doing that much already.  I don’t really have any excuses for this.

***Except for my cousin Brian, who was an arrogant jerk in the way of most thirteen year-old boys to their twelve year-old female relatives.

^If it just isn’t possible for you to participate (c’mon, it’s only 334 words or thirty-three minutes a day), care packages will be (barely) acceptable in lieu of your presence.^^  Please send chocolate, caffeine, clean socks, highlighters, post-it notes, and good wishes.

^^Or, in the case of my cousin Brian, more than acceptable.  He’s still an arrogant jerk.


Priority Pie, with Bonus Balloons

True confession time:

The past few months, I’ve become nearly immobilized by my own expectations.

It’s as if I’ve been standing in the center of a room that’s slowly filling up with small balloons: blue wishes, pink desires, purple promises, yellow fears, orange assumptions, red determination, green guilt.

The pressure isn’t heavy, but it’s there and I’m surrounded, and I can’t move.

Not forward, not back.

But when I realized that I was the one blowing up all these balloons, I also realized that I was the one holding the hatpin.

So, I took last week off to figure things out.

And make pie charts.  Just because.

Why pie chart


First, I wrote down a list of things I want to do and have to do and don’t want to do and can’t do and have to do before I can do and do be do be do be do.

And then I wadded it up and threw it away, because I already know that even if I can, somehow, have it all, I’ll never be able to have it all at the same time.

So what are the daily essentials that I need to function?



There’s some necessary overlap, because my family and friends and writing* can keep me sane, if they so choose, and I can’t spend time with them or write or work if I’m not healthy, and I don’t have health insurance without work . . . so it’s more of a Venn Pie.**

All I have to do is figure out how to balance the slices on a daily basis.

Here’s the plan, so far:


Professional LibrarianI don’t have much leeway here, except for what I do on breaks, which usually involves a combination of the other parts of the Timepie.

But at least work is on a fixed, steady schedule:  I put in a solid eight hours a day, five days a week, work one night a month and every other Saturday.

So it’s easy to plan around—and three cheers for the aforementioned health insurance and timely mortgage payments.

Moving on.


I like the idea of being healthy, I’m just not very good at following through.

I don’t sleep enough, I overwear my disposable contacts until my eyes hurt, all of my favorite activities are  sit-ivities, I’m a wee bit caffeine-addicted and consider the Comfort Food Diet a valid lifestyle choice. . . And while I’m not afraid of doctors, I don’t bother making appointments for myself unless I’m coughing up something disturbing or that nagging pain isn’t going away—or the stick tells me I’m up the duff without a GYN-OB.***

But it’s past time I make the time to make some changes, which includes consulting medical professionals who will help me figure out what changes to make.

Therefore, I’m declaring this the Year of Health, because the Year of Sarah Finally Accumulating Medical Charts in One Place After a Decade of ERs and Drop-In Clinics takes too long to say.

I’ve already started:  last week, I went to the dentist, who inspired me to hurry up and find a regular doctor by showing me a chart of my enamel-less teeth^ and asking me questions about acid reflux, sleep apnea, and tooth-grinding stress.

But scheduled doctor appointments, while occasionally problematic, aren’t as tough to fit in as the daily stuff.

The dietary improvements I’m trying out—I won’t bore us all explaining them—take no more time than my old habits, and neither does exercise, or what passes for it around here, which I’ve already been doing.  Mostly.

SleepHowever, there’s no question that I need more sleep. And to get more sleep . . . I have to sleep more.^^

And that takes time.  Which means I need to finish up the stuff I need/want/have to do in a timelier manner so I can go to bed earlier or get up later.

I mean, I could warp the space time continuum in order to add a few hours between 02:00 and 02:01. But since I’m trying to reduce the amount of caffeine in my system, I’m not going to challenge the Laws of Physics anytime soon.

At least, not without the okay from my doctor. When I get one.

So . . .where can I make room?

Family and Friends:

Nope.  Not budging.  Or if I am, it’ll be towards more, not less.

That I need family and friends time is a given.

But though I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with e-mails and texts and lunches (with friends) and driving and feeding and hugging (the kids), I’ve been shirking a lot of invitations to girls’ nights out (R movies and art shows and nice dinners) and girls’ nights in (G movies and fingerpainting and pizza) lately because there’s so many other things I think I should be doing, so even when I’m out (or in) with them, I’m not really present.

Green BalloonInstead, I’m off somewhere thinking about  all the other stuff I should/would/could have been doing, batting those balloons back and forth—supposing there’s room in my subconscious—and occasionally holding the rough twine tethering a floating ball of maroon resentment, which will turn the color of guilt about five minutes after I escape leave.

My family is the biggest source of those green balloons.^^^

Because as much as I complain, as much as I occasionally threaten to mail them all to my parents in a cardboard box (“Breathing holes are a privilege, kids, not a right.”), or secretly plan to run away from the circus, I kind of love these guys.  A lot.

I may kvetch (and blog) about interruptions and distractions, bad timing and my apparent ability to render all other adults in the house invisible, but at the end of the day—the end of all my days—I’ve do understand that I’ll never regret a single moment I’ve spent with them.°

And that pretty soon, the kids will stop asking for stories or attention or braids or even a Mom-shaped beanbag to lean against while they watch TV.°°  Better get in that quality time where and when I can.

I’ve already started working on this, too—and I found out that I’m not as resentful now that I’ve learned to ask for time back—three hours a week to run away from home.

Look!  That Sanity slice just got bigger!

As for my friends . . .  when I’m with them, I think I’ll let go of all the balloons and just be.

Balloon free


This is gonna fluctuate with the ebb and flow and jostling of the other parts of the ‘pie.

But there’s a couple of solid changes I can make that may help—a few adjustments in, shall we say, medication.

We all have things we do, little rituals, little habits, that help us center ourselves.

One of mine is reading.  Always has been, always will be, not giving it up—though “existentially incapable of giving it up” is probably the correct way to put it.

Computer games are another habit of mine.  Specifically, Time Management games—probably because I can have as many do-overs as I want and there are cheats and walkthroughs, interesting storylines set to a snazzy soundtrack, and plentiful rewards and applause for a job well done.

Makes a fine change from reality.

But there’s centering, and there’s avoidance—and there’s ignoring all the other things I would/should/could be doing instead, in favor of yelling, “Five more minutes!  One more level!” ay myself, until my eyes burn, my mouse hand hurts, and I’m restocking grocery shelves or harvesting pumpkins or doling out playdough in my sleep, which began a lot later (or earlier, depending on your POV) than I’d intended.

It’s past time to put some parental controls on my inner child and try a little Real Life® Time Management.

I haven’t decided whether to limit myself to playing on the weekends, or try to earn screen time with wordcount/chapters/pages.

Or use the time to reacquaint myself with one of the hobbies I seem to have traded in for pixels and points.

But I set my alarm for an hour last night, tore myself away from The Beardless Wizard, and had an early bedtime.


Time Flies

So . . . what’s left?



Writing Pie

I like writing fiction and I like blogging my version of reality.

Both of them are worthwhile, both are beneficial, both can be a blast.

But one of my goals is to be a published author. More to the point, I want to be a paid published author.

Which means I have to scale down the time I spend writing posts and boost the time I use on fiction, both the writing of and the querying of.

To this end, I’m going to be dropping one post a week, to start, and I won’t be working on posts until I produce pages.

That also means the timing of publication—which has been holding steady at Noon CST for a while—is going to be more random.

Like today, for example.

And none of them are going to be as crazy long as this one, believe me—you’re getting all of last week’s at once.

Talk about your time savers . . .

Toy Balloons



*To be honest, I write interesting stuff when my sanity slips.  But I wouldn’t want to live in that headspace full-time, and my family also prefers that I’m here more than there. Maybe; I’m told I can be amusing while on bookbrain.

**Off-topic Inquiry:  Can a Venn Pie be a Real Thing?  Strawberry, Blueberry, and Cherry, for example? Would I need to invent a new pan or just make and freeze seven kinds of pie (yes, I drew a Three-Pie Venn and counted) and carefully reassemble?  Or have I just proven (proved? indy?) that the Sanity Slice is just wishful thinking?

***No, I’m not trying to tell you something. The equipment still works, but the factory is closed.

^No cavities, though.  Weird.

^^This would’ve probably dawned earlier on someone who isn’t as sleep deprived as I am.

^^^Any guilt my friends give me is the motivational kind and much appreciated.  Thank you.

°Even the two-kid-solo-parent clothes shopping trips. Stay tuned for that post; it’s a lulu.

°°But not money; we’ll always have my overdraft.



Sunny in Love

Sunny has a special friend.

Jay is blond with sky-blue eyes and even though I remember how the relationship with my first special friend turned out,* I can’t help but wonder what the grandchildren might look like.**

He goes to her school a few times a week and on those days, she dresses with him in mind.  I’ve seen her stalk him around the room, asking him if he likes her outfit or pigtails or shoes  over and over and over until he says he does.  And she throws, I’m told, a fairly impressive fit if she can’t sit with him at lunch.

And even though Sunny has always said that he likes her back and is her friend, I always thought most of this was one-sided, that he was just being nice—because he is—and suspected that she was bugging the poor kid half to death and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

So I’ve been trying, with limited success, to encourage her to wear what she wants to and not worry so much about what Jay might think or who he eats with, not only because women these days have choices and need to know their own minds, but also because, most likely, he doesn’t care much about what she wears and she has lots other other friends to eat with at lunch . . . And I just don’t want her to be too upset if he just isn’t that into her.

I mean, I think Sunny is cuter than the word itself can encompass—think Shirley Temple with Marissa Tomei’s chin and Punky Brewster’s pugnacity—but I’m not a five-year-old boy and cooties are a real concern for that demographic.  And unrequited love, at any age, guarantees a rough time.

But we went to a picnic yesterday and Jay’s mother—who is amazingly cool—looked over at Sunny and Jay,  who were sitting together at a table eating cake, said, “You know, in some cultures, we’re practically related.”

“Because my daughter is in love with your son?”

She nodded.  “And he’s crazy about her.  See that blue shirt?  I had to wash it last night because it’s Sunny’s favorite color.”


“Oh, yeah.  When I pick him up early at school, he worries about who she’s going to eat lunch with.  I tell him she has lots of friends, but that sure doesn’t make him feel any better.”

I can’t help but do that little Happy Mommy Sigh that my kid’s special friend thinks she’s special, too.

Though there might also be, I’ll confess,  just a touch of Victorious, In Your Face Mommy Grin in there.

See,  there was another curly-haired girl in their class who had designs on him and was big enough to literally hip-check Sunny-the-Peanut out of the way.  Sunny would sometimes come home and complain that CeCe had asked Jay if he liked her outfit and wouldn’t let him play with Sunny by themselves.

I comforted her and wrote it off as one of those Life Lesson™ things I probably wasn’t supposed to prevent and probably shouldn’t try to heal with cookies or Ben & Jerry’s.

But a week or two ago, I bumped into CeCe’s mother at my favorite coffee shop .  She mentioned, with a little smile, that Sunny was seriously crushing on Jay  and I mentioned, with the same smile, that her daughter seemed to have fallen for him as well.  She shrugged and said, “Well, she did, until she met the new boy across the street.  She likes him now, so Sunny can have Jay.”

And though both of us laughed about pre-K soap operas, part of me was like, seriously, lady?  Because I could tell that part of her meant it exactly like it sounded and my child does not need her permission to be the special friend of anyone, especially a boy for whom her kid wasn’t quite the competition her mother thought she was.

Which put me just a tad too close to Overly Defensive Jerry Springer Mommy for comfort.

But yesterday, I found out my kid won won’t have to worry, yet, about liking someone who doesn’t like her back.

And Jay’s mother and I had a fun time making provisional plans for prom, arranging one of those still-single-at-thirty-five arranged marriages, and arguing whose genetics would win out should those grandchildren ensue.***

You know, just in case.


*His family moved away, and six year-olds have no say in these things.

**In twenty-three  years after they both have stable financial prospects and have been in a committed and presumably legalized relationship for at least three years.  I’m a practical romantic, at least when it comes to my kids.

***Green eyes versus blue eyes and short versus tall, mostly, though we agreed that curly hair was good and some kind of musical talent was probably a given.


Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Cheese Fries, Books, and Sympathy . . .

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I was bummed.  But some things happened later on to turn the day around and I thought I might share ‘em to balance things out a little.

First, my friend Cha Cha sent me this picture because she’d know I’d appreciate it:

How could I not cheer up, knowing that Richard Scarry was right and Gold Bug is real?*

We also went out to a late lunch (her) – early dinner (me) and commiserated about our day.  Misery really does love company.

And cheese fries.

When I got home, there was a package waiting for me:  Stephen Jay Schwartz, whose Murderati challenge I won a while back by guessing books by their first lines,** sent me not just the promised hardcover of Beat,*** his newest Hayden Glass book, but a copy of the previous book, too!

And  he inscribed both.

Unexpected books, kind words, and the reminder of a victory . . .  That’ll cure a Monday.

And then, of course, a bunch of you took the time to send me sympathy here and e-mails there and poems and one hilarious-in-retrospect story that trumps my brainfail all to hell but I had to promise never to tell anyone, ever, I mean it.^

Thanks, everyone.

Aaaaand to cap it all off, there was half a container of this left in the freezer, which was a minor miracle, let me tell you:

While I attacked the contents with a serving spoon partook of this miracle, I managed to rework more of that lost scene and fix a bit of Pigeon.

Not such a bad day after all .  . .


*If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go get a Richard Scarry’s Big Book of Something and look for Gold Bug.  Waldo is an upstart whippersnapper.

**No idea how I won, except most of the books are favorites of mine and I could see several of the titles across the room from me.  I’m still kicking myself over missing the Raymond Chandler and the Sherlock Holmes story.

*** I love this book and loaned my original copy to a friend who says he can’t find it, though I sincerely doubt this.  Doesn’t matter now—he can keep it.  But he’s never getting his mitts on my copy of Boulevard.

^ So I won’t, don’t worry, but I’ve been giggling all day and won’t ever be able to look at a lemon again . . . You rock, and don’t forget it.  And you’d better write that down yourself or I’ll swipe it.

Conversations with Cha-Cha

Ever meet someone so smart, savvy, and snappy that it’s a blast just to riff back and forth, turning the conversation on a dime and back again?

I did, a couple months ago.  It’s no real surprise she’s a fellow librarian.

I can’t remember who started our frequent IM conversations—I think I asked her how to beat the water balloon level on Thingdom one evening, or maybe she asked me about next year’s list for my short story group—but they’re always fun.  She got me to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie* by promising to try Clementine.  We’ve debated Thanksgiving feasts and agreed that Stephen Fry is amazing.   She’s allowed me to swipe one of her fascinating relatives** for my next book.***

Our conversations often go like this :

Me: . . . but I’m ready for January, and that was teh goal.
I’m still missing a few stories, but they’re due later in hte year so no worries.
And I can’t spell THE to save my LIFE.

She: Reaching up to those top keys can be hard.  🙂

Me: I’s got stubby digits.

She: Stubby Digits totally sounds like a blues player’s name.

Me: The avatar for a bluesman on Guitar Hero.

She: Then it would have to be spelled Stubby Digitz.

Me: Like Limp Bizkit, except with soul.

She: Nice.

This is how cool this woman is:  when I asked her if I could share one of our odd conversations,  she agreed as long as she had a nom de blog.  I asked her if she had any suggestions, and she immediately said, “Cha-Cha.”


Have you ever read [author]? I can’t remember if you read romances/chick-lit. I thought I remembered you saying you read romances….

I read anything and everything, but I haven’t read her.
Which one should I try first?

None. I was just asking in case you had already read one. She wrote our book group book for tonight. I SOOOOOO want those hours of my life back.

Is this a library book club? Or did you join of your own accord?


Then it’s not technically *wasted* time.
It’s just work time.

Work time at home.

You would just waste it on Thingdom, anyway.

Here’s my super-short slam:

Truly bad chick lit. Ad exec from NY comes home: (to small-town Georgia) when her dad dies. Dad leaves her the house. She stays to try and sell it. Falls in love again with the South. Sister gets pregnant (child #5) AND cancer. Ad exec falls for cowboy-hat-wearing local doc who repeatedly and brutally tells her she’s a failure for not wanting to stay in the South. Sister chooses unborn child over cancer treatment. Sister gives birth to a baby boy on Christmas night AND it snows for the first time: EVER in this town. Ad exec gets partnership in company that allows her to work from Georgia instead of NYC and marries abusive-boot-wearing doc.
Okay, maybe not so short.

Ah. The ol’ “I’m verbally abusive because I *care*” plot.

If there was an actual brick in this office, I would bang my head against it.

You don’t need one. You have the story.

I tend to think of the story more like a putrid, runny brie.

That’s . . . fairly descriptive.
We had an Amy Tan. Wrtoe up the discussion here: LINK
Sheesh. I’ve lost the ability to type.

Which Tan? Did you like it?

“Two Kinds” from Joy Luck Club.
It was panful, but I liked it.
Holy Cow.
Too much caffeine.

IDK, I think “panful” would adequately describe The Kitchen God’s Wife.


I’m off the caff. On day 5.

I did that when I was carrying my first kid. I was off it for 7 years.
I don’t remember much. Probably just as well.

I know it will get better, but right now I’m totally a poster child for a bad afterschool special.

I do remember that.
My sympathies!


Panera has caffeine free Pepsi.

I KNOW!!! I was so excited to see one of the Subways has caffeine free coke. (I can’t remember which, though, since I’m not on caffeine. Sigh.)

Talk about a vicious cycle.
It’s like losing your glasses, isn’t it?
Can’t find ’em without ’em.

Like losing your glasses, and feeling the pain of what it would be like if someone ground them into a powder and made you eat them.

Are you sure this is what you want to do with your life?
Just asking.

No, not at all. I liked the caffeine. I liked the shakes. My blood pressure did not.

Ah . . . Did you get the coffee comic?

Coffee comic?

Sent you a link

OK, lemme check
Thanks. I was totally at the bugs stage.

Did you fall off the non-caff wagon?
Or is this withdrawal?

WD. I’m at the pants stage.



Tomorrow isn’t going to be fun for anyone. 🙂

At mtg this morning sat btwn [male coworker] & [female coworker] both of whom had 2 diet Pepsis each.
I was contemplating drink theft.

I dare you to steal [male coworker’s] diet Pepsi.
And I want it on tape.

I totally have better reflexes

I didn’t say he’d WIN.
I said I wanted to see it.

Also, I think pointing at the sky and going “What’s that” would completely work.

Especially if he hadn’t had much of his first one yet.
And the meeting was in its second hour
I can totally see that.

I just don’t remember ever being this tired.

The mind blanks it out.
Should have said: You have been, but you were probably asleep at the time.

Ah. Nice.
I’m more or less going home at night and attaching my head to my “happy light” in hopes of getting some energy back.
Not sure that I am, but my retinas are nice and warm.

Me: I prefer chocolate. And room temp retinas

As do I, but choc has caffeine

Decaf chocolate is . . . wrong
White chocolate is right . . .


. . .but not the same.
Was that for decaf or white chocolate?



chocolate + peanut butter = fantabulous

Chocolate + chai = better

love chai

PB and I have a non-aggression pact.
Dagobah Chai Chocolate Bars
[Grocery] has ’em in thier Organic section
Shoot ‘they’re’

Clearly they are wise

They are also expensive and have cornered the market.
But so worth it.


Whoops–missed a they’re

Trying to contract?

I’m . . . I’m not sure anymore. I corrected a correction and then left out a they’re, I think.

Have you read Diana Gabaldon?

Her first one.
I heard her speak at ALA.
Interesting woman.
Doorstop books.

Any value in them?

At the time the second one came out, I was too busy to read it, and then I fell way behind.
I’ll catch up eventually.

Wasn’t sure if you only read one because they were crud…

But they are involved.

I would hope so at that length.

And you have to like time travel and a certain level of resulting anachronisms
And kilts.
Or plaids, really,

Well who doesn’t like kilts?!

Not I.
I mean, I do.
There goes my grammar.

In college I dated a guy who was his clan’s caber-tosser at the Highland Games.

I once dated a bagpipe player.
. . .
Well, that killed the conversation.

Sorry, was disrupted.
I had a bagpipe player for an English teacher.

How’d that work out?

She was a REALLY angry person. She was also a Civil War reinactor and about 4’5″

You know . . . those things shouldn’t fit together, but they sort of do.

Yup. Weird.
Have a good night.

You, too.


*I understand Sherlock Holmes so much better now.

**Who will become the grandfather of an assassin, I think.

***Or maybe three books from now.  I’ve got a list.

Sheldon® is the amazing and lovable creation of Dave Kellett, who holds all copyrights and is not litigious at all.  Right, Mr. Kellett?