Time to Prep for NaNoWriMo ’17

Three weeks to NaNoWriMo. It’s time to get ready!

Getting Ready
I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo site with my novel for this year. Have you? This year, I’m going somewhat down the middle between pantser and plotter. I want to have a very simple plot, so I am not floundering, but not so much I feel guilty if I want to go in a different direction. Now I need to start filling up my story notebook with ideas, plot points, and some character outlines. I’ll add to my notebook as I go.

Story Idea
This year I came up with my story idea without any real work. The basic plot and main character just sort of dropped into my lap one day and I made a few notes in my bits and pieces scrivener file. That folder is the first place I look for inspiration for NaNo novel ideas. If I hadn’t had an idea ready and waiting, I would have done some brainstorming work to find something to write about.

How many words per day?
I’m thinking about trying something a little different with my daily word goal this year. I’ve written before about how many words I like to write per day during November, but I came across something called the reverse NaNo, and I think I’ll try it this year. Basically with a reverse NaNo you write 3,346 words on Day 1, and then write a little less each day until on the 30th you only need 1 word to finish. Currently I’m sticking with a tradition word goal of 50,000, but who knows. If I’m having a good year, maybe I’ll up it.

Other NaNo Posts
I did my first NaNo in 2007. Since then I haven’t missed a November. With ten wins under my belt, NaNo is something I post about fairly frequently. In 2015 I even did a series of NaNo posts.

Are you doing NaNo this year? What are you doing to get ready?

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Fun with Writing – Character Swap

When I start to lose motivation to write, or when writing has lost the spark that makes it enjoyable, I often look for a new writing exercise to get me going again. Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. Life has been busy, I mean really busy, but I also just haven’t been interested in writing. Nothing has grabbed me to the point of needing to write. So, to get myself going again, I set up a new writing exercise with a friend.

With NaNoWriMo ’17 prep in full swing, it is the perfect time to shake things up a bit. I’ve had a concept and a main character for a few months. My friend, after some group brain storming, has a world and a basic concept. The main area we are both lacking … characters. Hence our Character Swap idea.

We each wrote out a very short paragraph about our story, and filled out a questionnaire about our main character. The usual stuff: name, age, what they look like, skills, job, family, weaknesses, annoying habits, etc. Then came the fun part. We each got to make a character for the other’s story.

I often find myself falling into the trap of fitting a character to a story, instead of letting the character be an individual who happens to be a part of this story. The joy of this swap was that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have enough information on what she is writing about to tailor the character to the story. I did consider why this person and the main character would be friends, but also tried to think about my own friendships – why we fit, and how much do we really have in common? It was fun to make a character without worrying about the story they would be put into, or what they could give the main character. Maybe I need to focus on my characters earlier in my planning/plotting phases.

What are some writing exercises you have enjoyed? Have you started planning for NaNoWriMo?

Adult Gymnastics Progress

I posted last week about taking an adult gymnastics class. It’s my first time ever doing artistic gymnastics. It’s pretty far out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. I’m having a blast.

You may have noticed in the past that I’m a very goal oriented person. So I’m going to set a few goals for gymnastics. I’m not putting a timeline on anything right now, but I want to have a list in one place of what I hope to get out of the class. It turns out I have more things to accomplish than I thought, and I’ve broken my goals into categories!

Bars:

  1. Try Bars – Sep. 13
  2. A pull over without assistance
  3. Get one foot on top of the low bar (left)
  4. Get one foot on top of the low bar (right)
  5. Get both feet up on top of the low bar
  6. Get both feet up and balance for a 2-3 seconds
  7. Hang for 10 secs in an overhand grip chin up

Beam:

  1. Try Beam

Flexibility (this will be outside class practice mostly):

  1. Get down in a left split
  2. Get within 5 inches of a left split
  3. Get within 5 inches of a right split
  4. Get within 10 inches of a left split – Oct 9 (7.5″)
  5. Get within 10 inches of a right split – Oct 9 (9″)
  6. Get within 10 inches of a middle split
  7. Get within 5 inches of a middle stretch
  8. Get within 10 inches of a middle stretch – Oct 9 (8.5″)
  9. Start working on cobra to stretch out my back

Floor:

  1. Try Floor – Sep. 13
  2. Forward roll – Sep. 13
  3. Forward roll to standing without using my hands – Sep. 28
  4. Backward roll
  5. Kick to 45° for a handstand – Sep. 20
  6. Kick to vertical for a handstand – Oct. 12
  7. Kick to handstand, then forward roll out
  8. Kick to a handstand and hold for 2 seconds
  9. Do a cartwheel

Trampoline:

  1. Try Trampoline – Oct. 4
  2. Seat bounce to seat bounce with half turn

Vault:

  1. Try Vault – Sep. 20
  2. Get my feet to touch instead of my knees on a springboard vault to my hands – Sep. 28
  3. Straddle vault – Sep. 28

I plan to update and add to this list for this term of gymnastics. Hopefully I find some more skills to add, and check off many that I have on here.

Can you do a cartwheel? What things have you tried that are out of your comfort zone?

Getting new Experiences as a Writer

When a good friend approached me with the idea of taking adult artistic gymnastics classes I was sure I wasn’t interested. I did rhythmic in my early teens, but I’ve never done artistic. I was never able to do a handstand or a round off. I’ve always been hesitant with dynamic movement and scared of heights (I’m a big chicken). Adult gymnastics would put me well outside my comfort zone.

Somehow, I found myself thinking about it in the weeks after my friend brought it up. I’ve always wanted to be able to do a handstand, even though my heart beats a bit faster just thinking about kicking up into one (I mentioned the hesitancy about dynamic movement right?). Re-learning to do a forward roll and a cartwheel might be fun. I like organized fitness classes, it was possible I would enjoy it.

For a few weeks I thought about it. I talked it over with my husband. The timing was fine, the money wasn’t an issue, and if I hated it I would stop at a single term. He also pointed out that gymnastics would help with my fear of hesitancy in dynamic movement. Things like that wall I couldn’t get on top of at mud hero would become easier. I really want to scale that wall at mud hero next year.

There are two things that finally swayed me to give adult gymnastics a try:

  1. A writer needs new experiences. If I hate it, I can stop at one term. By at least trying it I have a new experience to draw on as a writer.
  2. I really like exercise clothes and my husband suggested I would need new capris and a tank for gymnastics.

When I found myself looking for just the right pair of capris (not too long, but tight to the bottom), I knew I was going to take the class. I still made my friend hold my hand (figuratively) while I hit the submit on my class payment though.

We had our first class on Wednesday and it was fun. Really FUN. I kind of remember how to do a cartwheel. My hands and feet are moving in the right order, but I have a ways to go to get vertical again. As expected, I’m too scared to really kick up into a handstand, but I’m not bothered by taking it slow. After one class I’m already thinking I’ll probably sign up for the winter term too.

What new things have you tried recently? Do you ever do new things just to be able to write about them?

Raising a Reader

My kid is at that age where he and his peers are learning to read. Most have moved into basic chapter books, some have moved into full chapter books. My kid is struggling through the books just before basic chapter books. In short he is a bit behind. We’ve put in the time, he has put in the work, but my son still doesn’t enjoy reading. Currently I have him reading the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold. The best he can say about them is that he doesn’t hate them. I think he almost likes them, but he wishes he was reading something more like an early chapter book about detectives and super spies. He isn’t ready for those yet. I wish he was, but he isn’t.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about him not liking to read is that we have done all the ‘right’ things. We have done all the things the articles say to do if you want to ‘Raise a Reader’. We’ve always read him stories before bed and during the day. My husband and I read books both on our electronic devices and in paper copies. We keep magazines and books by our bed and at the end of his. My couch always has a small pile of books, and the dinning room table usually has to have a book or two removed before we can sit to eat. My kid can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. He will even make up his own stories if someone else is willing to write them down for him.

We did all the ‘right’ things, but my kid isn’t a reader. He is an “I’ll only read if I absolutely can’t get out of it and you make me read” kind of reader. When other parents brag about ‘raising a reader’ I get a little jealous. They probably didn’t do anything more than I did. In many cases they have done much less! I’ve realized though that the problem isn’t that I did something wrong, it’s that I’m looking at it wrong. I can’t force my kid to love reading. I did all the right things, and while he isn’t a reader he is a lover of books, stories, and knowledge. Maybe it was the article title that was wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘How to raise a reader’, but ‘How to encourage your child to be love books’.

My kid loves books. He will sit and listen to us read to him for longer than I am up to reading out loud. He thrives on new facts and knowledge from non-fiction books and magazines. He will retell the story of our latest spy novel over the dinner table. He looks through Dwell magazine and points out the things he likes and the things he doesn’t. We have given him a love of books and learning, and I’ve finally realized that is even more important than a love of reading.

Do you have any young readers in your life? What books did they enjoy when they weren’t quite ready for early chapter readers?

Photo Pocket Insert for my Fauxdori

Photo pocket insert for a fauxdori

I realized a few weeks ago that I don’t carry pictures of my kid with me. As a parent one of the questions people semi frequently ask is what does your kid look like now. Until last week the only picture I had of my son was from daycare … he hasn’t been in daycare for years. If I have my iPad with me I can show more recent pictures, but they are all silly shots. Things like him dressed up with a mask on, or of something he built covering half his blurry face.

These days it is rare for me to be out without my fauxdori, so I figured why not add pictures to it. I found these photo pockets at Michael’s and decided to use them to add a picture insert to my fauxdori. I used duck brand duct tape (I cut about 1/2 cm off the width), to attach two sheets together and ta-da I have a photo insert.

You could make the duck tape narrower, but I wanted it to wrap around one my notebooks instead of using it as stand alone insert. I think having it wrap around one of my notebooks also takes pressure off the duct tape, so it should last longer. The duct tape needs to be wide enough to wrap around the spine of the notebook because the plastic of the photo insert is too thick to curve. I also made sure to pinch the duct tape together in each of the little cut outs for the binder rings the insert is intended for to help keep everything in place.

I’ve been using the photo insert for about a week, and I’m really happy with it. I now have pictures of my family, most recent obstacle style race, my nieces and nephews, and some motivational sayings. Each large pocket is 3×4 inches, so you can get two from a single 4×6. The smaller pockets are 2×2, so you can get six from a 4×6 print. It cost me less than a dollar to print the pictures I needed. Can’t complain about that.

Do you ever print pictures anymore? What is your favourite Fauxdoti insert?

Teaching my Reluctant Reader

Popsicle stick word gameMy son is a reluctant reader. I actually feel like this term isn’t quite right. He is more like a “violently against anything that remotely resembles reading, ESPECIALLY if it has to be done out loud” reader. On a bad day I can spend 2.5 hours getting him to do ten minutes of reading. (these days we are down to 15 minutes of complaining before 15 minutes of work)

His reluctance for reading is particularly hard since we are a family of readers, and we did all the ‘right’ things. My husband and I read both electronic and paper books. We are both big fans of (over) researching new hobbies and skills both online and in library books. When my son was little we went to the library weekly (now it is every two weeks). We have always read him stories before bed. We read to him in the middle of the day when he has had too much TV, but we need to have a calm break. We have succeeded in giving him a love of books … as long as someone else is reading them to him.

Last summer I put in a lot of time teaching my son to read. He made great progress, but he was still behind. Over the course of the school year he made slow gains, but he never caught up. He is still about half a grade level behind. So we are back at our reading lessons this summer.

This year we are focusing on fluency more than getting to a higher reading level. So we are working on sight words, letter recognition, and of course just plain old reading practice. Here are a few things that are making our reading work a little less onerous this year:

  1. Fiddlesticks – He actually LIKES playing this game. We use about 35 words at a time from the dolch list and four red tipped sticks. We usually play for between 2-5 minutes. I write the words on with a black coloured pencil not a marker.
  2. Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold – These are slightly below my sons reading level. They are perfect for fluency practice and read alone practice. Plus he doesn’t hate them (this is HIGH praise for a book he can read himself).
  3. The Alphabet – we have been practicing his printing (when we can since his dominant hand is currently in a sling). Before we start we always sing the alphabet while looking at our alphabet chart. I think part of his struggle to read is a lack of confidence about the alphabet.
  4. b d mouth formation – my son has a really hard time with b and d. He is fine with p now, and doesn’t struggle with n and m, but b d has been a real struggle. Teaching him about the mouth formation has not completely solved the problem, but when he is willing to use the trick he hasn’t gotten it wrong.

What early readers did/do your kids like? Do you have any other word games that might be a big hit?

Fauxdori – Bullet Journal Update

Leather fauxdori with red coverI’m several months out from my last bullet journal update, so I thought it was time to post another.

I’ve been using a fauxdori, with a bullet journal insert, for organizing my personal life since October of last year. I took a break from the bullet journal for most of June, but as soon as July hit I realized how much easier it was to keep on top of things when I was using my bullet journal.

My fauxdori has two elastics in the spine and usually has four inserts, two on each elastic. My current set up is: First my gratitude journal, second my bullet journal, and finally a scrap paper notebook wrapped in a plastic pocket insert. I keep the bullet journal in the middle because I write in it the most, and I can use it while still in the fauxdori. The gratitude notebook I pull out if I am making a lot of notes, and the scrap notebook doesn’t need to be neat or legible. The plastic pocket is from Michael’s Travelers notebook line. I like it, but it is narrower than my other inserts and the zipper pull might get annoying. I’m not sure yet if I’ll keep it long term or not.

I used to keep a novel or writing notebook in my fauxdori instead of the gratitude journal. If I don’t start using the gratitude journal more, I’ll probably switch back to that set up. I could easily keep both, but I find the fauxdori a little too thick with four notebooks in it. Three is my preferred set up.

My Bullet Journal set up is as follows:

  • Index at the front. I don’t index daily logging pages, but use a range for months from the first to last page used.
  • Set up pages:
    • The first page is my priorities for this year.
    • The second (facing page) is My quilt to do list which includes the sizes of my finished quilts for reference. I use this all the time!
    • The next set of facing pages I’ve broken into four sections on each side. This is my future log. I have June-Dec (I started a new journal in May as I used up my previous one), and the last section is for 2018.
  • Month, daily logging and list pages:
    • Each month starts with a set of facing pages. On the left is the month at a glance calendar. On the right I put my goals at the top of the page, then I do a to do list for each week.
    • The daily logging pages are the usual, but I don’t migrate unfinished items until I turn to a new page and can’t see the items anymore.
    • I put my list pages in whenever I need them and add them to the index as per usual.

Do you use a Bullet journal or a Midori? How long have you been using your journal?

Finished Quilt – The Grace in our Stars

My friend Cate decided, at the last minute, to make a quilt for a friend of the family. The friend lives in another country and was in need of some love. She wanted to do something, and sending a quilt is like sending a hug. I offered to help make a few blocks since she was short on time. She took me up on it, and over two nights three of us made a quilt top!

The pictures above are the ones I took over the two nights. The first night is the first five pictures, while the last four are from the second night. We did almost 8 hours of work over the two evenings, but it was well worth it. Until we hit the multicoloured border we almost always had two sewing machines going, plus one person cutting. They say more hands make for lighter work, in this case it was certainly true. This was a record finish for both of us.

I helped sandwich the quilt one afternoon, and Cate finished the quilting and binding over a few days. The quilt has now been gifted and the recipient loves it. Cate sent me the finished picture below once the binding was sewn on.

Pin wheel quilt on black backgroundI love it too. It’s absolutely beautiful. I guess you know you’re happy with a quilt when you don’t want to give it away.

What is your fastest finish for a quilt? Do you ever work as a group on a quilt?

My First Handbound Journal

Floral covered handbound journal.Last night I went to a program about bookbinding at my local library. The two hour session started with a brief introduction, and then we got to make our own journal/notebook. You can see mine on the left. I’m really happy with how well it turned out, especially for a first attempt!

First we had to select the pieces that would become our journals. We needed cardboard for the cover, 36 pages for the inside, thread for the binding, and decorative paper to wrap around the cover.

Next up were the supplies to put everything together. Scissors, glue, needle, pencil, a thimbles, and an awl. In the end I didn’t find the thimble overly useful, and while the awl was great for putting the holes in the cover, I preferred a large needle to make the holes in the paper. The needle I used for threading the binding was curved, and it made the whole process nice and quick.
bound edge of journal

I decided to use one coloured sheet for the outside of each section (in this case six sheets stacked and folded in half). This meant, as you can see on the right, each section of the binding was bright and colourful. In the green sections I used dotted paper, and in the rest plain paper. We assembled the journals using a kettle stitch. It was easy to learn, and once I got the hand motions down, surprisingly fast.

I really enjoyed making this journal, and can definitely see myself making more. I think I’m going to use the plain sheets in this one for some smaller writing projects that don’t need an entire notebook. The dotted pages are going to be used for quilting sketches.

Have you done any bookbinding? Do you know of any great online resources for learning more about book binding?