Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NaNoWriMo -- Educate Me Today!

I've never tried NaNoWriMo and have never really been tempted. I'm a pretty slow writer, and certain I'll produce absolute dreck if I try this. For those of you who are doing it, what's your goal or motivation? For those of you who've done it in the past, was your goal met? Were there benefits or drawbacks you didn't foresee? Are you sold on it, or is it something you've done once and "never again"? Did/do you consider it mostly an exercise to get the flow going, or do you hope to, or did you, produce something you can revise for submission?

I've left you a few days to respond before the big event actually starts, in case you're all going to disappear from the blogosphere for a month. :) Hope it works great for any of you who are taking the plunge.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book of the Semi-Month Club

Spoiler alert: Instead of MG or YA fiction, I'm talking adult nonfiction today. After all, it's required reading and in these frantic days even I don't have a novel going. (Feel free to come at me with the thermometer and aspirin.) I'll be back to normal next time, especially since the library now has a few more well-anticipated novels waiting for me. Should I be able to get them read. I was packing up dishes last night at my mother's and realized that between this move and the rest of my life I'm going to be solid busy, morning-noon-and-night busy, for the rest of this month if we're going to pull off this move and still manage to pay the movers for only two hours. But I'll spare you the whining, since who's not busy?

I mentioned a month or so ago that I'm enrolled in a ministry school class on prayer. One of the books I have to read is The Prophetic Intercessor by James W. Goll, published by Chosen Books. I was first introduced to the concept of prophetic intercession around 2003, and if you're anything like me it sounds confusing at first. What does foretelling the future have to do with praying on another's behalf? Well, my two answers are "it's not about foretelling the future" and "a lot."

Remember Jonah and the whale? (Although the Bible calls it a fish, and as we all learned in elementary school science, a whale is not a fish.) Jonah got swallowed because he was running away from God. He was a prophet, and God had told him to go to the city of Ninevah and preach in the streets about its wickedness, warning the people to repent. He wanted so badly to avoid this that he jumped on a ship to elsewhere and was caught in a storm at sea. Anyway, once he got out of the fish, Jonah went to Ninevah and announced, "Forty more days and Ninevah will be destroyed." But the people repented and changed their ways, God had compassion, and canceled the destruction. This very likelihood was what had made Jonah angry in the first place. He said, in effect, "I went out and made a spectacle of myself telling them their city would be destroyed, and it didn't happen! I look like a fool!" So -- does a prophet foretell the future? Not exactly. Not even most of the time. A prophet speaks the word of God, as either revealed to him or her or gleaned from the Bible. People can respond or fail to respond to that word and either bring it to pass or change it.

Now it becomes easier to see what Goll means by prophetic intercession. The intercessor can speak what God is saying (what the Bible has to say on the subject, what the "still small voice" is telling him or her, or both) about the situation in prayer, knowing that this is God's will on the matter. In this way, the intercessor truly becomes a go-between -- not just "an attorney" representing the need before God, but as someone who can pray more accurately because of the two-way communication. And God wants the communication more than we do. Goll writes, "Just think: He lets us ask Him to do what He wants to do for us. What a mystery and a privilege!"

Unlocking more and more keys to answered prayer in this class has been exciting. It's halfway over. In about six weeks I'll post my take on the whole, unless I have more to say before then. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Still Breathin' . . .

The writer within is stirring. Yesterday she started a short story and wrote half of it. She wants the fun of it back; she wants the joy of creation back; but she doesn't want to force anything or talk it to death. She's stirring.

Book of the Semi-Month Club will appear on 10/15 as scheduled, although it will be a bit out of the box since it will reflect what I've been reading in the last couple of weeks. Till then, thanks for stopping by . . .

Monday, October 6, 2008

Livin' La Vida Loca

And whose life isn't crazy, right? At least some of the time, and too often a lot of the time? But I've stepped up to a new level of insanity that is "new" for several reasons: (1) I can't opt out of any of this responsibility. A number of family decisions (mainly involving my mother's affairs) are simply on my shoulders and must be made and carried out in mucho detail (as long as there's a Spanish flavor to this post :)). (2) This has gone way beyond multi-tasking. This is multi-layered multi-tasking, in which even those things I'm putting off are things that can't be put off. You know what's scary? I don't even have small children anymore. Although, speaking of my mother, she was right: You don't concern yourself one iota less when they're grown. In fact, once they take on jobs, spouses, mortgages, and children of their own, you experience that much more "walking around with your heart outside your body," as somebody once summed up parenting.

Billy Graham was asked what he found to be the biggest surprise of life. His answer was, "The brevity of life is the biggest surprise." I would agree. But, thus far, I have to add that another big surprise is that the decade of my 50s is the most chaotic I've yet had, much more so than, say, my 30s. (And my 40s was the most fun.)

Okay, not everything I said in point 2 is quite true. I have put off some things that can be put off. Like reading. For a writer, reading isn't optional, of course. So it's not like I'm jettisoning some hobby here. I don't have any mere pastimes; for the most part, as an adult I've not had the luxury of being able to "pass" time. I haven't watched TV since Murder, She Wrote went off the air. :)

But the cheese gets more binding, as my grandma used to say: I'm not writing, either.

The irony that I am blogging but not writing is not lost on me. I think it's that I'm trying to keep my public act together as much as possible -- even though my activity on boards and blogs is sketchier than it was two months ago, aided by the seemingly monthly problems with my Internet connection lately.

People often complain they don't have time to write, and I'm not horribly sympathetic with that view. Most of the time, the truth is that they're simply choosing other things. But not having the psychological space and peace to write is something else, which I've tended to address in the past by writing short stories as opposed to novels, and nonfiction as opposed to fiction. Right now I'm not sure what I'm going to do. But I've had to face that this difficult period has been going on for seven years now, and that's rather scary.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Book of the Semi-Month Club

I guess I'm on a futuristic novel kick lately, although that wasn't planned. Today's book is Rash by Pete Hautman, a National Book Award winner published in 2006. Like The Hunger Games, the novel by Suzanne Collins that I discussed a few days ago, Rash imagines what might happen if certain conditions of today continue unchecked into the future. Unlike The Hunger Games, Rash is funny and satirical. The year is 2076, America is now the USSA, and the pledge has evolved to the following:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the Safer States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands
one nation under law
with security and safety for all.

In sixteen-year-old Bo Marsten's United Safer States of America, 24% of all teens and adults are serving time in workcamps, sent away as menaces to society. Drop a piece of fruit while unloading groceries and someone slips on it and gets a concussion? You're sent up for a year of hard labor on a farm. Punch a guy out at a party? For Bo's brother that's two years patching holes on a Nebraska freeway. Road rage? You risk a prison stint shelling shrimp in Louisiana -- like Bo's dad. In fact, legislating higher safety standards than mere humans can bear has resulted in an economy that depends on a sizable prison population to perform its manual labor.

Bo is a talented runner, proud of running 100 meters in under 14 seconds. But his gramps, born way back in 1990, did it in 11. "That was before the Child Safety Act of 2033," says Bo. "Now every high school runner has to wear a full set of protective gear -- AtherSafe shoes with lateral ankle support and four layers of memory gel in the thick soles, knee pads, elbow pads, neck brace, tooth guard, wrist monitor, and an FDHHSS-certified sports helmet. We raced on an Adzorbium trace with its five centimeters of compacted gel-foam topped by a thick sheet of artificial latex. It's like running on a sponge." In Bo's world, it's illegal to walk outdoors without a helmet, own a large dog, possess a chain saw, drive without a safety web, or play football. (Football is still on TV, but broadcast from South American countries like "Columbistan" and Paraguay.) Students who appear ill in the classroom are escorted out by a pair of masked medtechs and taken to quarantine.

Bo has typical high school problems. The girl he likes prefers the guy he hates, fellow runner Karlohs Mink. Bo also has some of the same temper problems that plagued his father and brother, and he's already in trouble for calling Karlohs "dog-anus mouth." It's a "three-strikes-and-you're-out world," and Bo has two strikes. (What was strike one? That was the time his classmate broke a pencil and Bo flipped him a replacement whose graphite tip accidentally punctured the forehead of a third student. Bo got a month's probation, and pencils were banned from the school.) His luck runs out when students start getting a strange facial rash and Karlohs manages to place blame on Bo. He's sentenced to an Arctic camp (the USSA has annexed Canada) that makes assembly-line pizzas (a strictly retro food for old geezers) and is surrounded by the world's few remaining, very hungry polar bears. But the warden at this camp fields an illegal football team. And because he can run, Bo makes the team. Prison isn't so bad -- pizza and football -- but how will he feel when he has to go back to his regimented life? Hint: After high school graduation, South American football is looking pretty good.

One passage in this novel stopped me cold. After relating Gramps's memories of shopping malls in the early 21st century -- you would go to actual stores, try on actual shoes (now banned for fear of the spread of athlete's foot) -- Bo launches into a paragraph that begins, "Everything works different now, of course." He then proceeds to tell us how mall shopping works "now": a vending machine measures you for size, shows you a hologram of how you'd look in the item, etc. But just a minute. Whom is Bo talking to here? Why would Bo, a teen in 2076, think he was speaking to someone who didn't know how to shop at a mall in that day and age? This struck me as a serious misstep in a 6-page chapter, although perhaps smallish in proportion to the whole novel. A lapse of logic in an otherwise entertaining story.