Nikki's Notebook

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

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress, Summer, and Vegetable Garden!

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2012-06-10 10.24.29

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress

For about one day, I was caught up on my novel. I really was. I even had, like, 200 extra words. On Friday that all went out the window. See, Chris is working in Minneapolis full time, so he’s only home on the weekends. That means that, whenever he’s here, the regular schedule I’ve so diligently put myself on gets thrown out in favor of doing fun things together or catching up on house and yard things together. And I’m totally all right with this. Our summer is short here in Duluth, so we have to enjoy each moment of it that we get. I have a week off now, so I will catch up. Plus, sometimes the thing that Chris and I decide to do together is go to a coffee shop and work on our respective projects. So then I do get more writing done those times when he’s here.

Tashi enjoys when we let him hang out in the yard with us, too. His favorite activities are getting pet while basking in the sun and exploring. He is not an outside cat, but we let him come outside supervised for short periods of time. When we don’t let him out, we sometimes have the pleasure of listening to him yowl at us in the windowsill for 15 minute stretches of time.

What I like about summer, when it’s not too hot, is that I can do everything outside. I’m sitting in the shade right now on the deck, looking out into the yard and admiring my freshly planted vegetable garden. While I enjoyed my coffee after breakfast this morning, I knitted on the pair of socks I’ve been working on for Chris forever! It’s taken so long because for a while I was having weird pain spasms all up and down my left arm and wrist, so I thought it was a good idea not to do the things that caused them, like knitting. It was sad, but I think it’s had a good rest now and is over.

Vegetable Garden

Yesterday we worked outside for ten hours! We got up early enough to be at the farmer’s market when it opened at 7am, a first for us. My attempt at starting plants indoors failed again this year, so we relied on the farmer’s market for some great plants to get our garden going. The $25 investment in seedlings will be well worth all the vegetables we get later!

This is our second year wtih our magnificent raised bed garden. Last summer I planted 13 tomato plants way too close to each other, and they EXPLODED all over the garden and flopped over the pepper plants and stole the sun from them. Add to that, we’d planted late because of the time it took to build the garden and get the dirt, so we had a LOT of green tomatoes in September. I have high hopes for this year–I was more moderate with my 6 nicely spaced tomato plants, but I may have crammed some other things in there tight. What I did, though, was intersperse different kinds of plants together. So I planted onions and lettuce in the spaces between the peppers, and I put snap pea and pole bean seeds practically everywhere because they put nitrogen back in the soil, which helps the other plants grow.

I’m going to take pictures of the garden as it grows. Here is Day 1.

The big plants in the foreground are the pepper plants. We have 2 jalapeño plants, 1 banana pepper, 1 hungarian hot wax pepper, 1 green bell pepper, and 2 others that I don’t know the name of that Chris’s mom gave us. On the back row are the tomato plants. 2 big slicing tomatoes and 4 cherry tomato plants. I love love love cherry tomatoes, especially straight off the vine.

The big trellis behind the tomato plants will be for snap peas and pole beans. The section of green fencing on the inside of the garden has zucchini seeds planted under it, and I plan to tie them up and grow them vertically. I haven’t got them in much space, so it’ll be an experiment. I won’t cry if it doesn’t work.

On the zucchini side of the garden, the little green spikes you can see are leeks. I planted a few rows of them and had so many left over that I planted them in every extra space I could. I did the same thing with the onions on the pepper side of the garden. Both deter pests with their oniony smell, so I’m hoping the random scattering will be good. I was really excited to see, when I pulled the onion seedlings apart, that many were already forming tiny little bulbs! Onions are one of my favorite vegetables, so I will be really excited if they’re successful in my garden.

2012-06-10 10.22.20
2012-06-10 10.22.58 2012-06-10 10.23.12 2012-06-10 10.20.46

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Camp NaNoWriMo (still) and a New Publishing Community, Asymmetrical

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cats are plotting against meI have been slacking on the blog a little bit and the cats are angry. I’d like to blame it on Camp NaNoWriMo starting last Thursday, but to tell the truth, I’ve been slacking a bit on that, too. I’m only about 1,000 words behind, and I have a whole week off next week, so I’m not too worried. It’s not NaNoWriMo’s fault I’ve been slacking on the blog, it’s the beautiful weather’s fault! On Saturday, Chris and I managed to do almost exactly nothing productive, which is an accomplishment for us. We went flower shopping with his mom, then went to his parents’ house and walked on the trail behind it along the creek for a couple of hours. Gorgeous. Sunday, the yard work consumed us. I planted the flowers. They are pretty. Summer is wonderful, until it gets too hot and/or humid.

I am excited about a new website, Asymmetrical. It is a site about publishing online, and currently has a community page that is pretty active. When they say publishing, they mean many things, but it’s a lot about micropublishers (a solo publisher) and exploring the changes that are happening in publishing of all kinds because of the internet. I myself usually lurk, but am so proud of myself for posting an introduction there! Now I will have to start participating in discussions more. The project will be more than just a community eventually, and I think it’s going to be good. Check it out!

Written by nikkinbird

June 5, 2012 at 6:32 pm

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

Make Good Art. Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech & My Thoughts on the Apocalypse.

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makegoodartIf you haven’t seen it yet, go watch Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the University of Arts class of 2012. Then watch it again. It’s inspiring for artists of all kinds, and is just the kind of message I need to hear every once in awhile. In fact, I may go listen to it again, right now.

Yesterday I started daydreaming a post-apocalyptic short story idea. Or, maybe you’d just call it apocalyptic, because the story was kind of a “What if this happened?” kind of scenario. I once heard that if for some reason our food supply chain got cut off, grocery stores would only have a few days’ worth of food, and then we’d all be screwed. I wanted to verify that time frame, so I googled it.

I found Modern Survival Blog and it blew my mind. Seriously. Go read it. I can’t imagine living with that mindset, let alone that several people appear to have made successful businesses around it. Just look at the ads. It’s such a goldmine of inspiration. Isn’t it kind of fun to think about which people you know might be closet survivalists? Then make them into the unlikely hero in the event of an apocalypse in your story.

After I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I spent a few days pondering what I could do to make sure I’d survive an apocalyptic event. I soon came to the conclusion that I would not be one of the survivors, and stopped worrying about it. At least, it would be very, very, unlikely. It is fun to think about it sometimes, though. If I had to get away, where would I go? When I was working at the convention center, I liked to imagine what would be the best place to defend against zombies or just other humans who want to steal our food. If I did survive, I would know how to make wool into yarn and then cloth, so I would have some talent to contribute to any kind of community formed by survivors. Chris could be the one to cobble together broken cars and turn one into a biodiesel fueled car. And maybe our husky would pull us on a sled in the winter. If “winter” still exists by that time, anyway. Haha.

On a semi-related note, when I walked on the neighborhood trail yesterday, I was happy to notice all of the thimbleberry plants coming up everywhere! Thimbleberries are mostly like raspberries, but wild and with different leaves. Last summer we took a walk down the trail and snacked on berries all the way. I will know where to go to hide in the woods when the apocalypse happens and I can survive on berries!

Do you like my picture? I just made it by playing around in Photoshop. It’s not very good, because I’ve never used Photoshop and I was just playing around. But that’s okay, because I’m learning, and right now it’s my best. Earlier, I dumped an entire salad on the floor before I even got to take a bite of it. That’s the kind of day I’ve been having. So I hope nobody cares that I made a crappy .gif with Photoshop to go with this post. It’s all Pinterest’s fault anyway. Just go listen to the commencement speech and forget you ever saw any of this!

Summer School!

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lil chicken!Yesterday I spilled coffee on my editing. I was just getting into a good groove, too. Then I had to bring the whole thing inside and let it dry out. The good news is that after it dried, I finished editing it! I actually just finished scribbling all over it, which I’m not sure counts as editing. The next step is to type up the new draft.

After I finish this draft, I may post the story at Scribophile. I haven’t used it before, and I only just signed up about a month ago. They use a system called karma to determine whether you get to post your work for review. Before being able to post a story, I will have to earn karma points by doing a few thoughtful reviews myself. It seems like a great site, though I am nervous to take the step of offering my work for criticism.

Another cool site I’ve found is Coursera. Coursera offers free online college courses from well-known universities. Heck yes I’m taking advantage of that! There’s no college credit or certificate offered, just the good ol’ satisfaction and pleasure of learning something new. I’ve signed up for Intro to Sociology and Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. I’m so excited!

As June gets closer, I’m getting more excited about Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m also getting a little nervous! I’m stacking lots of things up on my plate right now, from the courses mentioned above to other self-imposed learning endeavors, not to mention my job. Luckily, working with kids tends to follow a school-year schedule, so my service this summer will be with a summer program, and I will get done around 3 each day, and have Fridays off! Additionally, I’ll have almost a whole week off between the end of school and the start of the summer program. I plan to make the most of all the extra time I’ll have. You may have to remind me I said that a month from now, when I’m sitting around being lazy “because it’s summer, and that’s what you do in the summer!”

Check it out, one of our staff members brought her baby chicks to school! That’s me with one of them. She’d ordered 4 hens, and to keep them warm, they were packed with about 10 baby roosters! Nobody really raises roosters, apparently, so all they are good for is packing material 😦 Instead of killing them, she gave them away to another staff member who lives in a rural area and already raises chickens. Yay!

Written by nikkinbird

May 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Editing: Seeing Red!

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Editing my story Look at all that red! It’s fun, marking up the rough draft as much as possible, cutting out whole paragraphs and squeezing in whole new paragraphs between the lines. This is what double spacing is for! Just do me a favor, and don’t try to read the story that’s on that page. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure you will, if you weren’t already going to. I suppose I don’t care, knowing that it doesn’t look anything like it will when it’s finally done.

I managed to get three more pages of this marking up done tonight after a wave of anxiety over the hugeness of my project hit me. It is so easy to get lost in the big picture, especially if you are a big picture person like me. I want to make an awesome website, with lots of pretty stuff like pictures and graphics, and I want it to be perfect, but how do I get there? Seeing the big picture without having a grasp on the small steps to take can be paralyzing.

Instead of letting my discouragement and fear stop me, I got some groceries, a latte, and came back to write. Even if I can’t make a stellar website in a day (let alone learn the skills to even start making a website), I can write. I can edit. Journaling also helps me get past it and into the writing mindset.

UntitledAlso, I’m learning Photoshop and InDesign CS2. Chris and I have a legal copy of Adobe CS2, which is way old (the current software is Adobe CS6), but it is cheap for learning. It’s my guess (and fervent hope) that learning CS2 will give me what I need to adapt to the newer programs if and when I decide it’s worth it to purchase those ones. No use spending all that moolah when I don’t even know if I will end up using the program for anything but a hobby! Plus, the learning guides are cheap for the old software, too. I got “like new” copies of Adobe’s official “Classroom in a Book” books for it for less than 6 bucks each, including the mandatory 3.99/each shipping price. Someone tell me if I’m grossly wrong in thinking that learning the old software will be at all useful, but until you do, I will continue to be excited to learn from my shiny newish books.

Written by nikkinbird

May 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Don’t Count on the Weekends

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ticking timersHow do you stick to a writing schedule?

I find it too easy to say I’m too busy on weekdays. I’m tired in the morning, and when I get home from work, I feel like relaxing, not working my brain. I’ll have plenty of time on the weekend, I think.

In order to make sure I keep up a consistent writing habit, I have learned not to count on the weekends. It always seems like I can get a whole lot of writing and other things done on the weekends, but that’s not always true.

Social events can take up a lot of time on weekends. Sure, on one weekend I may get to spend 4-5 hours per day writing and working on website stuff and preparing blogs in advance. But as soon as I take that amount of time for granted, something comes up the next weekend that takes it away from me. My brain still expects it, because I had it the weekend before, then suddenly my weekend’s over and I didn’t make time for writing.

It can be hard to keep up 5 hours of solid work, too. Since I haven’t developed any kind of routine or habit for working in long stretches like that (because I only do it on weekends), it’s easy to get distracted and off task. So that big chunk of time might not be as productive as my smaller chunks during the week.

I do take advantage of the extra time I have on weekends to get more work done, and to do it at a more relaxed pace, but building regular time into weekdays (or work days, if you work on weekends) is key. Whether it’s getting up early and writing before work, or scheduling regular time to write after work, having a daily expectation to write will help you make progress on your project and exercise your writing muscles.

It can be difficult squeezing regular writing into a schedule that’s busy with a full time job, but if it’s important to you, that’s what you do. I look forward to my evenings and weekends as time to work. It sounds strange, but it’s one of the ways that I know I should be doing it.

The timers pictured above were at Ikea. There were two different displays of them, and in both, all of the timers were ticking. Somebody had come by and set all of them! They didn’t go off while we were within earshot, which was strange since they are only minute timers, but it would have been funny to see!

Written by nikkinbird

May 15, 2012 at 7:08 am

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