View from the lower rungs

This write a novel in a month promise…
like climbing a twenty foot ladder to the sky.

an excerpt:

May 2003

Let me not propagate words. It’s not what I do best.

I am, rather, a breeder of children, the keeper of remembrances.

My success is measured in a flip book of time, hinting at a future.  I have raised up five children. Mine don’t die.  The last child, a pudgy boy, starts first grade and rounds the years until now, as a new teenager, we find a hint of hair upon his upper lip.  School pictures, arranged all on one page, are glued, acid free, in a circle like the numbers on a clock. They tick off the moments, the years. This boy still has four blank circles.

The lady in charge of scrapbooking parties insists we do not be afraid to trim.  Snip out the refuse with zigzag scissors! Crop! Discard the unimportant!

That is a blessing. I think it’s why I took to scrapbooking.

I take horrible pictures.

A woman with her eyes half-closed.
A child with her new eyes fixed.
I always catch the mouths agape.

Grimaces. Laughter bubbling over into rapture.

A teenage girl, head tilted back, mouth thrown open so wide it looks as if she’s biting the universe. Only I remember the joke that caught her so overcome.  I snap a moment too early. Maybe too late.

Babies caught in the intake of breath become a tempest. Scowling infants. Toddlers with tears streaking their cheeks. Not cute sadness. Wretched sadness. Sadness with a conical birthday hat to top it all off.

A boy with his eyes half-closed.

So I crop. I save shoes. Food. Hands. Necks. Elbows. Eyes. Mouths. Noses usually turn out fine. Knees are pretty good.

I know who wore brown and black cowboy boots on Christmas Eve 1979. I don’t need to see his face.

It matters a lot, what I can remember. My lawyer tells me this.

So help me God, I’ll try to tell you what really happened.


Writing is the first step. Editing is more like what happens at the top of the ladder where the steps are narrow and far from the ground. The only thing worse than ascending air is having no one to keep your foundation from wobbling.  For now I’m getting strong support from 300,000 others at NaNoWriMo.

With steady gaze,
~ Catherine

The Weekend Dish

Write now!

National Novel Writing Month begins in exactly six days and you can get a jump start on outlining, prewriting, researching, and yes, writing your book-length project this weekend.

NaNoWriMo, as its known to those in the know, is an annual event billed on the website as “thirty days and nights of literary abandon” where the challenge is to complete 50,000 words within 30 days. You do the math, that’s a lot of writing.  But a perusal of the list of published NaNoWriMo authors includes titles put out by major houses and may include a few names and novels you’ve read like Sara Gruen and Like Water For Elephants.

The concept is pretty simple. You register on the website.  It’s free.

In return for your public declaration of intent, you receive cyber pep talks and support from NaNoWriMo staff and information about local writing groups and in-person events.

You buckle your seat belt to your writing chair. You write.

I’ve already started writing.

Why I Can’t Write 50,000 Words This November
Thirty people are coming for Thanksgiving dinner and I recently moved and I’m not finished unpacking yet and there’s no mirror in the downstairs bath (and no light either) so how can I host a holiday without also doing a little shopping for the house and the new backyard is still mud and the rainy season is imminent and how can I ignore that November is an ideal month to plant in California and did I mention I have no backyard, (seriously, it’s dirt, just dirt which turns into mud when it rains and you know I have Chester and he needs to go outside because that’s what dogs do) and the new issue of dirtcakes is due out so I’ve got writers to contact and contracts to send and design to oversee and the semester is winding down and I know my students paid for and expect to receive not only teaching but grading which means I’ve got dozens and dozens of papers to read and comment upon and did I tell you me daughter’s in-laws are coming to town and I’d be rude not to plan some time for them and surely I’ve mentioned that I’m also a writer which means that all those family things and foody things and editor things and house things and garden things and teaching things will have to somehow bow to this writing thing but I’m old now and I have to sleep so maybe I just won’t eat and I certainly won’t clean (although I should shower and do laundry so as not to offend those standing nearby) but of course I’ll cook the week of Thanksgiving because I really love all those 30 people who will show up on my front porch that day –

Ack! Stop the chatter and just write.

You’ll find inspiration some where. Mine arrived in my e-mail in-box earlier this year. With permission, I’m excerpting it here:

Hi Professor,
It’s Brian Ducoffe.  I was in your “Composing the Self” class last fall. I don’t know if you remember but I participated in National Novel Writing Month and finished. I ended up spending the next 9 months editing and revising it and the book is now published. I ended up going the self publishing route after a couple conversations with some literary agents just so I could have more control but am hoping I can pick up some attention and possibly make some publishing houses take notice. Anyway I just thought you’d like to check it out since I wrote it during your class! Thanks!

See, the cool thing is that Brian never once missed an assignment or asked for an extension he just kept showing up, doing his school thing while finishing Our Elephant Graveyard.
So here’s to you and here’s to me and here’s to a growing word count.
What are you waiting for?
See you on the bright side of November.
Full details of NaNoWri Mo can be found by clicking here.
With high expectations,