Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Archive for the ‘Gru Dog’ Category

First revision of a short story – still more work to do!

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UntitledI just finished the first revision of my short story that I’ve been working on for awhile. First I scribbled all over it in red pen, then I set to typing up all of those changes. Since I was adding a character, many of the changes involved writing new stuff, and that’s where I always get stuck. I think, “I’m supposed to be editing!” and I get myself into a different mindset than the one that allows me to freely write rough drafts. I stuck with it, though, and now I’ve gotten one step farther in the process. I’ve only ever finished one short story before, and that was because it was for a class. Doing it again paves the way for more successes, since I’m learning more about my process and what works for me and what doesn’t. My hope is that eventually the process will go faster because I’ll be more used to it and it will become more of a habit.

Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and I’m trying to prepare myself to be immersed in my novel again. I have a lot of changes I have to make, and it will be mostly a complete rewrite. This is technically “cheating,” since the rules of NaNoWriMo are to write a new novel, but I am using NaNoWriMo as a motivational tool. Camp NaNoWriMo is cool because it puts you in a virtual cabin with cabin mates. When I first signed up, it was too early to have cabin mates, but now I have them! I’d better go introduce myself soon.

Last week, we had some spectacular thunderstorms. Gru is afraid of the thunder and lightning, but we enjoyed the storms. Storms are a perfect opportunity to hang out in a cozy coffee shop and write, or have a fire and hang out at home and write. See picture above: fire, wine, writing, and scared dog. A perfect memorial day weekend!


Written by nikkinbird

May 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm

My DIY Postgraduate Education

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UntitledLike many people, there are two sides to me when it comes to making big decisions like “What do I do next in my life?” There’s the realist (pessimist?) and the dreamer. In all of my decisions, I’ve been able to see at least a little bit of the dreamer. When I chose to major in English, it was because I secretly wanted to write fiction. Except, I would never have told anybody that.

Instead, when I answered the question “What’s your major?” with “English,” I would often get the response, “Oh, so you want to be a teacher?” I always thought that a bit of a silly question, considering that if I wanted to be a teacher, wouldn’t I be an education major? Usually, what I’d do was shrug, and say I didn’t know, or make some joke about not having a job after I graduated. I managed to end up in education anyhow, thanks to AmeriCorps, but I still have no plans to become a teacher, either by going back to school or through any alternate degree program.

At each crossroads in my life, the dreamer in me struggles with the realist. It’s the same now that I’m approaching the end of this year with AmeriCorps. Going to grad school for English has always been in the back of my mind, and I did have enough professors encourage me to do it! However, the best advice I got was from one of those same professors who thought I’d be grad school material: Don’t go to grad school unless you know exactly why you want to go and what you want to study. He cautioned against grad school as a placeholder, or something to do just because you don’t know what you want to do next in your life. In the past few years, I’ve had vague thoughts of going back, but I’ve always wavered, because deep down I knew that’s all I would be doing: choosing grad school because I didn’t know what else to do.

Instead, I’m going to make my own DIY postgraduate education. Part of it will definitely include a job where I will continue to gain professional skills. The other part is going to be me spending time on writing and learning things related to writing. I still don’t know what form it’s going to take, and it’s going to take time, but I’m already taking the steps, and that’s what counts. It won’t be overnight, and it will be a lot of work, but if it’s work I enjoy, then I have achieved my goal.

What I won’t do is frantically try to latch on to the latest fad for making money on the internet, try to take advantage of people who don’t get it, or rush out sloppy work just so I can start promoting my first 99 cent ebook and expect to be the next Amanda Hocking. I’m going to do good work, hard work, thoughtful work, and quality work. If I’m going to do it, it’s going to be something I can be proud of.

Here is how I’m starting my DIY postgrad education:

Reading books:

I recently purchased Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and The Plot Whisperer when we stopped by Barnes and Noble the other day. It was an impulse buy, and perhaps a creative writing professor would have recommended different books, but it seems like a good start to me. I’ve started reading Self-Editing already, and it’s actually made me feel better about my writing. Not that I think my writing is so good, but because I knew a lot of the things it talks about already from the one creative writing class I took in college. I’m happy to know I’m starting good habits, even though I still have a lot of bad ones, too.


I’m writing every day, so I’m practicing. I like this video with a quote by Ira Glass: Ira Glass on Storytelling, because it comforts me and motivates me to keep going. I’ve always written fiction, but it’s never been on a consistent basis until this year; it was always sporadic and unfinished. So I still consider myself a beginner. I’m going to keep practicing.

Studying others who are doing what I want to do

Mountain and Pacific is my big find for the day. It’s the perfect tonic I need to cut through all of the noise out there about marketing your book, creating content that you can sell, having an author platform, how to be the next kindle millionaire, or whatever. I’ve just read issues 19 and 20 of In Treehouses and I’m enjoying Thom’s philosophy that doing something well, and with depth and thought is better than all the tweeting and arm-waving you could do to sell your product. I do believe that the best way to stand out is to focus on quality and honesty and to let the rest flow naturally from that. Don’t get me wrong, I do think there’s a place for marketing, but the thing being marketed needs to be worth selling first.

Learning new technologies

I’ve downloaded the files to get started on a WordPress based website, and will be poking around with it for awhile. I learn best by just doing the things I want to know how to do, so I just have to jump in and try it. If I can make a nice website, this blog might move there.

So those are a few things I’ve been doing for my DIY education, and there will still be more. I’ll read and learn all I can, and take the best ideas from everything and mold them into something of my own. If you’ve read this far, I hope at least some of it was useful or inspiring to you. Maybe for all this, I won’t succeed, but I’m determined not to fail simply because I never tried.

Gru says, “I don’t care if it has no steering wheel and the hatch is filled with too much stuff. I’m going for a ride in the car!”

I am bad at libraries and wish I could just buy all the books I wanted and make my own library

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I am bad at libraries. I got a Duluth library card last winter, forgot to return the books on time, got a letter that I owed the cost of the books and my fine was over $60. Moreover, it said the fine would be turned over to a collection agency if I didn’t pay it soon. I finally returned the books, but have been afraid to find out how much my fine still was, so haven’t checked out any more books since then. Today I logged into my library account for the first time and found out that my fine is only $6. So I guess I can go check out some books that I want to read now.

Today, instead of writing a lot like I always think I will on the weekends, I baked a loaf of bread:

It is the first time I have done this. I used “Lesson One: Your First Loaf” from I like that the article gives a lot of explanation about how and why the ingredients and methods work the way they do. There were some parts that I had to go back and read a couple times to get a grasp on, though. I am going to make another one tomorrow, because I used 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup whole wheat, thinking it would make it lighter than straight whole wheat flour. Turns out, pastry flour isn’t good for bread making and results in a dense bread (I read ahead to lesson two).

While I waited for the dough to rise I walked the dog, but not our usual walk on the trail because the warm weather we’ve had made all of the snow melt then refreeze into smooth ice. The dog does not understand the effect of pulling combined with ice. He gets excited when I fall down because it’s something different that’s happening.

Also instead of writing, I watched two or three episodes of Modern Family and knitted. I’m now on the third black stripe of the sweater.

I also deposited a check I received for back overtime pay from my last job after I heard they got investigated for overtime fraud. I guess they were found fraudulent, then. Then I went grocery shopping. I cooked chicken, bought the organic tomatoes from Mexico that are ruining the world (or at least Mexico), and had this for lunch:

I was inspired to look up my library fines because of this post: 5 Timeless Books of Insight on Fear and the Creative Process. I reserved a couple of the books on the list.

I’ve just started using Twitter and have found a lot of interesting things through it. It wastes a lot of time, but I learn a lot too. So I guess that’s not such a waste of time.

And now that I’ve written this blog post, I guess I should go continue writing. I’m nearing the end of my novel, and an epic magical battle, and I think I need those books about fear and the creative process right about now.

Written by nikkinbird

January 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Walking the dog at sunrise

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Crappy iPhone picture of the sunrise over the lake on my dog walk yesterday:

This spot is one of the only spots in our neighborhood where you can see Lake Superior. Now that the leaves are gone off the trees, it’s a little easier to catch glimpses of the sunrise over the lake. It makes those cold, early dog walks worth it!

Speaking of cold, it got up to 50 degrees today. In Duluth, in January! What is going on? I’m still waiting for a really good blizzard. I feel like I’m missing out on winter this year!

Written by nikkinbird

January 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Posted in Gru Dog

Tagged with , ,

Morning knitting, finished Java socks, and doggie fiber sabotage.

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I love waking up just a little extra early in the morning, so that when I finish getting ready for work, I have time to do this:

Sit on the deck in the sun and knit a little bit with some coffee. I’ve finished my Java socks and am now using up the leftover yarn for some more blanket squares. It will be a long time before it’s done, but someday I will have a sock yarn seed stitch blanket!

Here are the socks:

Has anyone ever mentioned that it’s really hard to take decent sock pictures of socks on your own feet?

I left a couple of my aluminum size 1 dpns on the couch after starting my blanket square, and it was at this point that I learned never to leave anything, even METAL knitting needles, on the couch.

Gru ate it! And those needles only came in a set of 4, so I don’t even have an extra to make due with. Then, mere moments later, I went to grab another chunk of roving to start spinning it up, and couldn’t find my pile of roving. I found it in Gru’s favorite place to lay and chew things up:

Luckily, he mostly likes to pick things up and move them around, and he didn’t ruin any of it. But now I know my dog a little better and I know to be more careful! My cats have spoiled me with their disinterest in yarn, I guess.

Spinning tricks: spinning wheel mat and drying handspun yarn.

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It’s a delightfully rainy and stormy day here in Duluth, MN. Chris is out of town working so I’m left to entertain myself. I wanted to get out of the house, so I’m at Dunn Bros enjoying a latte. Yum! I’ve been spinning this weekend, and wanted to share a couple of tricks that I use when I spin.

On Saturday, I brought out my spinning wheel for the first time in almost a year. Since we’ve moved I kept putting off getting rubber feet to keep it from sliding on our hardwood floors. I tried some rubber feet Chris had bought for something else, little bubble-like things, but they kept sliding off because they weren’t sticky enough. I thought of getting a bath rug with a grippy bottom, but thought the wheel would slide across the carpet, too. Then, I thought of the perfect thing:

It’s grippy contact paper from the kitchen cleaning aisle at Target.

Another trick I thought I would share is how I weight the yarn when I dry it. I must be getting better at spinning, because my plied yarn seemed fairly balanced and not twisty this time, but I still hung it the way I usually do. I put one end of the wound skein around the top of a hanger. I used to put a soup can or other heavy can through the bottom loop, but recently have started hanging another hanger in the bottom to weight the skein. To make the hanger heavy enough, I put a folded towel on it. This way, the water that drips from the bottom of the skein drips onto the towel instead of the floor as it dries.

Puppy News
Gru is getting along just wonderfully at our house, and we couldn’t have asked for a better dog. The other night, when I went to Target to get my spinning wheel mat material, I brought Gru. Little did I know, I was driving straight into a thunderstorm. I could see it in the distance when I parked the car, and by the time I got out of the store it was right over us. I came back to no dog in the back of my wagon – he’d climbed over the seats and was huddled in a ball in the driver’s seat! He’s afraid of thunder, lightning, and, by association, camera flashes.

When Chris is gone, Gru sleeps on the bed with me, and he woke me up with a nose in the face this morning to let me know there was more thunder. Every time there was a boom or a flash, he paced nervously around the bed. Finally, in search of a small space to curl up in, he jumped from the bed to the top of his kennel.

Here he is looking very sad, trying to be in a small space between the wall and the clothes hamper:

I had to pick him up and put him back on the bed, and I finally got him to lay down by petting him. He’s gotten better about storms since we first discovered his fear. The first time we figured it out was because he woke us up by scrabbling under the bed. Now, he comes to us to be comforted, and will just lay on the floor as close to us as possible while making sad faces.

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