Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Contest Time!

It’s the time of year for giving things away, and I’m participating in the BookEnds Twelve Days of Bookmas Giveaway. It will run Monday through Friday, December 1st through December 16th. Each day they will post a clue, riddle or quiz for readers to answer on the BookEnds blog. Several BookEnds clients – including me – will be posting clues to the answer all over the Internet. Follow the link to the agency’s blog for a list of who all will be providing clues and to get more details about the contest. Once you figure out the answer for the day (and they’re pretty tricky), you must post it in the comment section of the BookEnds blog post for the day. The first one with the correct answer wins!

AND, I’ll be running my own contest here on Hearth Cricket at the same time. So, starting tomorrow, December 1st, be sure to stop by for my daily clue for the BookEnds giveaway and to increase your chances of winning the Hearth Cricket giveaway of a $25 electronic gift certificate to Amazon.

Good Luck!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Home Crafts and Writing

cooking1 In the last week four people have asked how I can do all the home-crafty stuff like making soap, cheese, and butter, baking bread, fiber arts, gardening and cooking from scratch and still have time to write. So I gave it some serious thought.

First and foremost, I don’t have children. Those who are able to write while raising children and cooking from scratch, gardening, etc. have my greatest admiration. Now that’s tricky.

Plus, writing is my job. When I had a full-time job and wrote, the home crafting activities definitely declined.

And I cheat. Yes, I bake our bread, but I usually use a bread machine or the Five-Minutes a Day recipe for artisan breads. I’m a big fan of either dumping ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and walking away or using the pressure cooker to speed “slow food” along. Plus I cook for leftovers, either to be frozen or re-used in other recipes, so I really only cook dinner five times a week or less.

I plan my schedule for the week. Or at least I try to. That helps me identify chunks of time for larger projects like making pasta or processing garden produce.

Baking, making yogurt and simple cheeses, cooking, gardening, laundry, and cleaning are regular parts of the week. But in the fall I actually schedule time off for food preservation. Soap making only comes about twice a year, candle making once a year, and I only make butter once a month or so.

The key, of course, is that I love it. Even when I’m tired there is something soothing about puttering around in the kitchen. And not only do I really enjoy the activities themselves, but also feel a ridiculously immense satisfaction from using my own soap, cooking a meal with vegetables from the garden, biting into a simple slice of sourdough bread spread with cultured butter, or putting on a hat that I knitted from yarn I spun myself.

But let’s be clear: I often don’t pull it off. I fail. Sometimes there just isn’t time for it all. Writing has to come first, so that means some trade offs. It took me a while, but I’ve learned to let some things go. Cancel the milk delivery for a week, give away the eggs, buy a loaf of bread, and pick up a dang pizza!

Everyone has busy lives with many integrated parts. If you have any tips or tricks for how you manage yours, please share!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week Link

This is another gift-oriented link for the holidays. Washington State University in Pullman, Washington has its own creamery! And they make some of the best cheese I’ve ever tasted. Cougar Cheese (because they’re the WSU Cougars, of course) is a terrific gift for the cheese lover on your list, and they’ll ship directly to the recipient. Cougar Gold is my favorite, an intensely sharp Cheddar aged for at least a year. Right now they have some that’s been aged for three years. There are other flavors, too.

Be sure to read about the cheeses before purchasing. The Cheddar develops crystals during the aging process, so don’t be surprised by that. And if you’re buying for someone who doesn’t enjoy deep, strong flavors, pass on the Cougar Gold.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Egg Nog

Mug of eggnog

’Tis the season for the real stuff. Rich, creamy, and spicy, you can even leave the booze out if you must. But it’s still worth making it from scratch at least once a year.

Egg nog contains raw eggs. Given the recent egg/salmonella scare, most of us are more aware than ever of the potential dangers of undercooked eggs. I admit, at Hearth Cricket we still dive into the homemade mayonnaise and spaghetti carbonara because we buy pastured, organic eggs from a local farmer. He doesn’t wash them, whereas commercial egg producers are required to scrub their eggs with detergent. That removes the naturally occurring barrier against bacteria. In fact, vigorous scrubbing can actually drive bacteria through the shells and into the eggs.

So if you don’t have access to unwashed eggs, you have three choices. You can buy raw, pasteurized eggs at many grocery stores, or you can pasteurize your own eggs at home. Or, since the egg yolks are sufficiently heated to be safe, you can simply skip the final step of folding the whipped egg whites into the nog.

Egg Nog

In a large bowl, beat 4 egg yolks until they lighten in color. Slowly beat in 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until fluffy.

Combine 2 cups milk, 3 whole cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Heat slowly until the milk is steaming but not boiling

Temper the egg mixture by very slowly whisking half the milk mixture into the eggs. Add the milk and eggs to the milk remaining in the saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture begins to thicken. It should get to 160 degrees. Do NOT allow to boil or your nog will curdle.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of cream. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the cloves and any inadvertently cooked bits of egg. Let cool for an hour.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 cup of dark rum. (You can leave the alcohol out entirely, add 1/2 cup of rum, or use half rum and half bourbon or brandy.)

Beat the 4 egg whites to stiff peaks, adding 1 teaspoon of sugar as they whip. Gently fold into egg nog.

Serve chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream on top if you’d like, and a dusting of nutmeg.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thanksgiving Post

leaf1Jumping on the holiday bandwagon here, talking about gratitude. About appreciation – recognizing  the value of what we have.

Times have been tough for a lot of people. There are always tough times for some, though. And you can always find someone who isn’t as lucky as you are, who doesn’t have what you have. Appreciating what we do have – whether it’s material stuff, a level of success in one or more areas in life, passions and interests, skills or talents, relationships with other people, or whatever health we might enjoy – is a gift. A gift we give ourselves that in turn we give others.

It turns out that appreciation is a key factor to happiness. People who appreciate what they have aren’t generating the negativity that comes from wanting more, more, more. The aren’t expending energy in fruitless struggle, complaint or envy. Instead, they notice what’s going right, the good things around them, large and small. By appreciating others, they love more. They make their own happiness.

That’s a pretty awesome thing to give yourself.

And happy people make other people happy. That’s the gift you give those around you. That, and your appreciation of them.

Generally, happy people are also more successful. They are less fearful, recognize opportunities, and take more chances. They are more social, confident and creative. They help others and feel healthier.  And that success means there’s even more to appreciate! It’s a positive cycle that builds on itself over and over.

So even after the turkey (or tofurkey) and taters, yams and pie, invite a little more appreciation into your life every day. Pay attention to the little things. Keep a gratitude journal. Each morning list ten good things about the upcoming day.

Any other suggestions for how to develop ongoing thankfulness?

I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Hearth Cricket followers and email or feed subscribers – for stopping by, for your comments and emails, and for reading my books. You mean a lot to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Goings On

From the weekend …

080910 018

Tri-citrus and peppermint-rosemary soap

111710 018

112110 005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pickled the last of the beets from the garden

112110 010

Stock simmered on the stove – chicken this time

070710 014 Baked bread

butter whisk 2

050210 022

 

 

 

 

 

 

And whipped up some piima-cultured butter to go with it

Add in some editing, drafting two new scenes (mine), dinner out with friends, an afternoon of yard cleanup and a soak in the hot tub, and we had a couple of restful yet productive days here at Hearth Cricket.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week Link

I ran across BeFunky.com when searching for photo software. It allows you to upload any picture and then apply special effects for free. Might be fun for a holiday newsletter or if you make cards, scrapbook, etc. Below are some of the looks I got when playing around with it. The last one reminds me of the old soft-focus a la Doris Day only … blue.

McRae_Cricket pic_Colorpinhole_1McRae_Cricket pic_Cartoonizer_2 

 

 

 

 

 

 McRae_Cricket pic_Charcoal_1McRae_Cricket pic_PopArt_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

McRae_Cricket pic_Cyanotype_1

Friday, November 19, 2010

Poultry Dressing

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Over the years I’ve added and subtracted from this recipe, and now it’s my go-to dressing for Thanksgiving, with plenty left over to freeze for later.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms, bacon, pecans and water chestnuts add flavor and texture

This is dressing rather than stuffing. The difference is that it’s not actually stuffed into anything. Cooking it inside the bird can make it mushy, plus you have to cook the turkey longer so the stuffing will reach a safe temperature. That can dry out the meat. So baking the dressing in a casserole dish generally works better. It’s rich enough without soaking up drippings from the bird.

Purple Sage

Purple sage from the garden is now dried in the cupboard

This makes a LOT, which is good if you cook Thanksgiving for a crowd. You can also freeze it either cooked or uncooked to have with chicken or pork (or turkey, of course) later. Or halve the recipe for fewer people.

Poultry Dressing

Mix together:

  • 3 (14 ounce) dried bread cubes – a mix of white, wheat and cornbread (or dry your own)
  • 1 pound uncured bacon, cooked and crumbled (and save the grease (!))
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1-2 (8 ounce) cans water chestnuts, diced
  • 1-2 white or yellow onions, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons dried sage
  • 2 Tablespoons dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat together 1 quart chicken stock, 1 stick of butter, and the bacon grease (more or less according to your taste). Add to the bread mixture, being careful not to over- or under-soak. You might have to add a little more chicken stock or hot water.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the pan(s).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Small Rituals

111710 040 The alarm goes off. Snooze for ten minutes. Alarm goes off again. Roll out of bed, pad downstairs, turn on the coffee maker. Feed cats. Open blinds. Grab pen and paper. Pour coffee. Sit, sip, and sketch out the day.

A routine. It’s mostly habit, often automatic, and doesn’t take a lot of thought. Routines structure our days, help us get things done, and are part of the fabric of family time.

Rituals, on the other hand, are celebrations. Sure, there are the biggies – weddings, graduation ceremonies, special occasions like birthdays or holidays. But small rituals can enrich each every day.

teaThere are relaxing rituals – a bath with candles and maybe a glass of wine. A cup of tea in the afternoon while flipping through a magazine. Or work rituals like putting on an apron and ceremoniously rolling up one’s sleeves before diving into a kitchen mess.

Yes, even cleaning can be a kind of celebration.

Writing rituals help get me to the keyboard, to the page. They signify what I’m doing is important. They trigger focus, creativity, and a commitment to make significant progress. They aren’t necessary – I can write while standing at the kitchen counter, during the television news, at a picnic table or in the car. But I firmly believe that ritual enhances the writing experience, especially if I’m stuck, slogging, or uninspired.

111710 037The key to ritual is to engage all the senses. A couple drops of rosemary essential oil on the terra cotta disk by my desktop hourglass is a primitive reminder of what I’m about to do. I don a particular pair of reading glasses only in my office. A fountain burbles in the corner. Tiny white lights in grapevine spheres twinkle in a copper basket in another corner.

111710 044Each different kind of writing involves a cup of something. There’s peppermint tea for outlining, plotting, or first drafts, spicy Constant Comment for blogging (ha!), black tea or coffee for reviewing and editing, and green tea for promotional work. I have certain pens for certain activities, and even sit in different places. The desk is for editing and promotion. The peach-covered chair that belonged to my great-grandmother is where I write and rewrite fiction. The big, poofy blue chair is an ergonomic place for a 5’1” woman to snuggle in and blog, review manuscripts, research or plan.

When writing, rewriting, or reviewing I prefer white noise in the background. Often that’s the sound of the ocean. Blog posts mean some kind of funky organ jazz lately – think Medeski, Martin and Wood – while classical music serenades editing and research activities.

What kind of small rituals have you created to celebrate simple daily activities?

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Love to Write Day

Pencil Pusher

Today is America Recycles Day. It’s National Bundt Pan Day. And, smack dab in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, today is also I Love to Write Day.

Started by author John Riddle nine years ago, it’s an opportunity for everyone to write something – anything – be it a poem, a letter, or a story. Young people are especially encouraged to write, and the website has suggested writing exercises for children. More than 20,000 schools participate with events and activities.

For those who are knee-deep in NaNoWriMo, struggling to get their requisite quota on the page in order to meet the 50,000 word goal by November 30, one day devoted to writing a little something is only a weensy drop in the bucket. But for those who are just starting out, have been stuck, don’t know – or care – about NaNoWriMo, or have always wanted to write but never jumped in, it’s a great chance to participate in all that extra writing energy floating around today.

Can you feel it?

There is always a holiday if you need one. Every day in November – and every other month – is some kind of national or world holiday. There are some really silly ones, of course. This month you have World Toilet Day, Have a Bad Day Day, Name Your PC Day, Mickey Mouse Day, and Push-Button Phone Day. Who knew?

There are some good ones, though. Tomorrow is International Day for Tolerance (though one day hardly seems enough!). Last Saturday was World Kindness Day. The first of the month was Give Up Your Shoulds Day. Naturally, I like Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day (11/8), and Homemade Bread Day (11/17).

And you may want to celebrate Stay Home Because You’re Well Day on 11/30.

But today? Join the mass scribbling. Write something. Anything.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week Link

If you are an aspiring mystery writer, check out the 2011 Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing. There are two scholarships for up to $500 each to be used to offset tuition or fees for a writing class, workshop, or seminar.

The downloadable application, rules and submission details can be found at the above link. Be sure to follow the submission requirements carefully in order to be considered for the scholarship.

The deadline is February 28, 2011. Good luck!

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Cover

Wined and Died_1

Yesterday I posted over at Inkspot about the new cover for Wined and Died, Home Crafting Mystery #5. It’s due date is July 11, 2011, eight months away, but it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon. I wrote about how I got the title (Thanks, Keith!), and gave a quick synopsis of the story:

Newlyweds Sophie Mae and Barr Ambrose are acting as surrogate parents to eleven-year-old Erin while her mother is away. When Erin stumbles into a dead psychologist’s notes regarding a homicidal client, Sophie Mae races to discover the identity of the potential killer. Clues lead her to the Grendel Meadery, a traditional honey winery operated by the tight-knit Swenson clan. Everyone has a secret, and soon Sophie Mae is up to her neck in deadly herbs and drug dealers while trying to juggle a handsome lothario, her responsibilities as a temporary parent, a major contract for her soap making business, and a strangely distant husband.

Sorry for the repetition if you follow both Inkspot and Hearth Cricket, but I love this new cover and had to share. Thanks to Lisa Novak for putting together another terrific design!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Goings On

111010 057

Cleaning up leaves in the yard

111010 050

While the deer clean up fallen crabapples

111010 074

The last harvest before the hard frost: leeks, cabbage and chard

111010 121

Inside, things are sprouting

 111010 095

And baking

111010 104

Beef stock simmering on the stove filled the house with good smells

092510 007

All between writing

111010_2 010

And reviewing manuscripts – mine and a friend’s

111010 112

Then, at the end of the day, there’s time to work on my blue chenille sweater

Monday, November 8, 2010

Changing Time

clockpic

We have a tortured relationship, Time and I. Things go along nicely for a while, hours filling up, minutes put to good use with flow and purpose. Then things change. Time just doesn’t give me enough. Doesn’t fulfill my needs as much as it used to. I need more.

Unfortunately, it’s my own fault. I mean, Time is simply going along doing what Time does. I’m the one who gets greedy. I want Time for more things, instead of working with it to find a compromise. That’s my problem, not Time’s.

Only I can break the cycle of contentment and resentment.

So I’ve been watching for ways to contribute to the relationship by ferreting out found moments and stolen hours. This weekend I stumbled into a gem. And I’m probably not alone.

For most of the U.S., daylight saving time kicked out Saturday night. Fall back, and get an extra hour – usually spent as additional slumber. But I vowed to use my extra hour this year by applying it to the manuscript I’m reviewing for a critique partner.

Even better, for the last two days I’ve been getting up at my usual daylight saving time. So, an hour earlier according to the clock. That means going to bed an hour earlier, too. I miss out on a bit of television , which, let’s face it, isn’t much of a loss. Since I’m more productive in the morning than late at night, this new practice essentially gives me an extra hour every day.

So far so good, two days in. Ha! Only Time will tell if it’s a success in the long run, though. Wish me luck.

Are you an early riser, eager to get going on your day, or are you more productive at night?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week Link

goat

As November progresses along at its typical breakneck speed, it’s time to think about the upcoming holidays.

Gifts are not a big deal at Hearth Cricket. K is not big into Christmas, and I’m enough of a contrarian to resist the corporate push to buy, buy, buy. The kids on our list get a lot of books, and over the past year I’ve made or collected other items to give. There will be blue-to-green-to-blue LEDS on the spruce in the front yard, narcissus blooming inside, real eggnog, marzipan cookies, holiday music, and more time with friends. But not a lot of hoopla.

Silly geegaws and The Big, New Thing everyone thinks they have to have aside, it’s the perfect time of year to donate in someone else’s name as their gift. One of my favorite places to do this is Heifer International. This organization adheres to the old adage, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” It ain’t original, but it makes sense.

You can buy heifers and goats, rabbits and bees, sheep, pigs and chickens. Or just a share of one of these critters. These animals improve the lives of people, families, and whole communities all over the world by providing milk, wool, honey, eggs, meat and baby animals to increase and perpetuate the cycle. Sometimes businesses grow out of the food – and wool – production.

It costs as little as $10 to buy a share of a trio of rabbits, or $20 for a flock of chicks. Bees are $30, or you can go big and gift a World Holiday Cheese Basket for $990! That would provide a family with a heifer, a goat, a sheep and a water buffalo which would produce enough milk to start a cheese making business.

So consider passing up the sweater for Uncle Thaddeus, and give a truly useful gift to someone who needs it in Thaddeus’ name instead.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No-Stir Risotto

arborio rice I love creamy risotto, inundated with Parmesan or Romano cheese, herbs, maybe even some meat and veggies. But all that stirring! Slow cooking is all well and good, but that’s a lot of standing around. Then you have to add more stock and stand around some more. Stirring. Over and over.

There is a solution!

Arborio rice cooked with stock and other lovely things in a pressure cooker takes less time overall, and the result is quiet creamy and tender. The cheese and herbs are added at the end.

No-Stir Basic Risotto

In a 6 or 8-quart pressure cooker, heat 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 small onion or shallot, minced, and 1 clove minced garlic if you want. Cook for about five minutes until softened but not brown. Stir in 1 cup Arborio rice until it is coated with the butter and oil. Pour 2 cups of chicken stock over the mixture.

Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and bring the cooker up to full pressure over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at even pressure for 7 minutes. Follow your cooker’s instructions for how to do this. I have an old-fashioned version with a rocker valve on top. As long as it’s slowly rocking I know things are on the right track.

After 7 minutes, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and release the pressure quickly. For some that means pushing a button. For me it means running cold water over it in the sink. Stir in 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or in my case, two BIG handfuls) and some chopped herbs. I used rosemary since we were having lamb. You can also cook the rice with ham, asparagus, browned mushrooms – you get the idea.

What? You don’t have a pressure cooker? Get thee to a Bed, Bath and Beyond! Or Target. Or wherever. Seriously, there is nothing better for slow food fast on a busy weeknight – especially in the winter. Soups, stews, roasts, anything you’d braise all day in the oven, grains, ethnic dishes, and cheaper cuts of meat all do very well in a pressure cooker.

I know a lot of people are leery of them, and they can indeed be dangerous if used improperly. Keeping them pristine and carefully maintaining the seals is important. There are several models where you can set the psi (pounds per square inch) and some have steam-release valves and timers. For the plainer versions, read the instructions carefully.

Stay away from cooking barley, cereals, applesauce, rhubarb, or pasta, as these foam and can clog the works – bad news. Contrary to popular belief, you can cook beans in a pressure cooker. You have to add extra water and olive oil, plus keep the quantity low, but it does work.

Add a little extra time at high pressure if you live at altitude. The rule I’ve heard is 5% for every 1000 feet. So I cooked my risotto for about 9 minutes, and it was tender and creamy.

If you’re just starting out, a really good pressure cooker cookbook is a must. Go beyond Porcupine Meatballs! One I like is 200 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes by Cynda Chavich. It contains unusual and classic recipes both, with a large vegetarian section and good suggestions for converting conventional recipes to the pressure cooker.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Still, Small Voice

whisper

I sit at a picnic table in the park by the river. I write in a spiral notebook with thick cardboard backing. The disposable fountain pen scratches across the smooth, ecru paper. Wind whispers through the branches above, joining the susurration of moving water below. The air is full of the spice of autumn.

My attention is focused on the page, on an interchange between two primary characters. They argue. The dialog flows from one to the other. It feels natural, but I’m not worried about whether or not it will read well. Not yet. There will be time to fix it later if need be. For now I just have to get it down on the page.

A man sits down at another table forty feet away. He is wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. Sports sandals. He’s nice looking, and his dark hair is pulled back into a ponytail. He looks fit. He meets my eyes, then looks away.

He’s not doing anything but sitting there.

No one else is in the park at the moment. A few cars dot the parking area, and the bike trail runs nearby, so it doesn’t seem isolated. I feel safe in my town – and in this little area by the river. People are friendly and helpful here.

But there is something about this man. It has nothing to do with his appearance or his clothes or the way he looked at me. Well, maybe it does have something to do with the way he looked at me, but I don’t know what.

I just know that the still, small voice in the back of my mind tells me to leave. I trust that voice, and without hesitation I grab my cell phone, swoop up my notebook and pen and bag, and walk to my car.

Was I in danger? Maybe. Maybe not. But that voice has whispered to me for years. It tells me little stuff.

That scene doesn’t belong there. It has to go.

If you don’t add more potatoes to the soup it will be too salty.

You’ve dropped a stitch. Stop and fix it before you move on.

But it also told me to go down to a particular spot at the far end of the yard, in my bathrobe, late on a snowy, February night because something was wrong. I found Cheese Cat, hypothermic and unable to move. He’d been hit by a car.

It told me to the day the most profitable time to sell my stock options after I Left The Software Giant to Become A Writer.

It told me to call that number in my old address book even though I was sure it must belong to someone else by now.

And Cheese Cat is fine, fully recovered from multiple scrapes and bruises, busted teeth and a chipped pelvic bone. The injuries disabled him, but the cold would have killed him. The money from those stock options allowed me to truly start my writing career. And that number belonged to K, whom I dated back in the 1980s. I had no idea at the time that the whispered voice would bring me back to Colorado and to love, but it did.

So I trust that soft whisper out of nowhere, and I hop to when it tells me to leave a riverfront park.

Do you listen to yours?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Prioritizing

002

What’s important in life changes from moment to moment in reaction to the world around us. And it changes in larger ways over time and through experiences. Right now I want to make writing more of a priority.

It’s not that I’m not a working writer. The thing is, so much of “writing” is not writing at all. It’s research, plotting, interviewing and character development. If you’re an outliner, that’s part of writing, too. For me, long walks where I mull over ideas are part of the package. And a lot of “writing” is really editing, copy editing and proofreading.

Then there’s the business side of things – online promotion, keeping in contact with bookstores, setting up signings, networking with other writers, attending conferences, designing marketing packages and posters and postcards and bookmarks – and then having them made. There’s the time you spend working with critique partners, reading others’ books to blurb, seeking out blurbs from other authors and keeping track of what is happening in the industry. Not to mention blogging (which is writing, of course, but of a different ilk) and keeping up with other blogs.

It’s surprising any actual words end up on the page at all.

But today is November 1st. The first day of the rest of our lives – and the first day of 2010’s NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, that’s National Novel Writing Month. During November, writers all over the globe will participate in a mass production of words on the page. I tried to go to the website earlier, and Internet Explorer couldn’t load it. It must be completely overloaded today.

Participation in NaNoWriMo allows (forces) you to make writing high priority for a month. Just a month. Heck, that’s not very long. There’s already a light at the end of the tunnel. The goal is 50,000 words of a badly written first draft. It works out to an average of 1,667 words a day. That’s between 6 and 7 pages every day for thirty days.

That’s doable. I know because that’s pretty much the way I like to write rough drafts anyway. That kind of production circumvents your inner critic. The whole point is that however imperfect the draft might be, it’s DONE. And in the meantime, a lot of new writing habits will be formed out there. After November, some folks will just keep putting words onto the page.

Which is what “writing” should really be about, don’t you think? 

I’m not officially signing up for NaNoWriMo. Lots of people don’t, but instead participate in spirit by identifying their own goals. Over at the Writing Bug, Jenny talks today about her own personal NoCoQuerMo (Northern Colorado Query Month). What a good idea!

So before the holidays hit full force, this month I’ll be churning out a much higher quotient of words than usual. Alone in my basement office but along with thousands of others.

Are you joining the writing hordes this November?