Archive | November 2014

November: The Most Depressing Month?

November road fallen leavesNovember’s probably my least favorite month. This year I’m feeling great, in part because I’ve begun work on the sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. But in November of 2010, I was mired in a deep depression. I wrote this poem in Julie Gutman’s class at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. The assignment was to write a poem modeled after Wallace Stevens’ Twelve Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

I write my strongest poetry when I’m depressed. It’s a wonderful form of therapy. Lots of the imagery I used still applies, but the way I’m looking at it now is much sunnier. Still, I dedicate this poem to those readers who are prone to doom and gloom at this time of year. Trust in the sunny days to come!

Eleven Ways of Looking at November

I.

Rusty crimson leavesNovember smoke tree

Cling to my smoke tree

Breathing in pale November sunlight.

 

II

The dead oak’s gray-brown branches

Hollowed by woodpeckers

Past Halloween

Sway outside my window

Waiting for November’s winds

To tear them down at last.

 

III

My mother died in late November.

I crafted a comforting casserole

From the dregs of Thanksgiving dinner.

 

IV

I savor the cold November breezeNovember crooked tree

Wafting across my body from the open window.

Swaddled in Polar Fleece to save on oil,

I’ve learned to welcome the encroaching cold.

 

V

Election Day’s finally over. News is bad

This chill November morning.

A hard freeze frosts the fallen autumn leaves

Ushering in years of deadlock and decline.

 

VI

The slanting sun casts shadows on the siding

Of the house across the way, silhouetting

A scrawny maple shedding yellow leaves.

Its roots snake unseen beneath our basement.

November’s high time to take it down but even so

We’ll probably let it be.

 

VII

A friend my age is failing. A housebound invalid,

She measures out these cold November days

In solitude, refuses visitors.

She longs for death, having a valid reason

To succumb.

 

VIII

Weeds have repossessedNovember dead thistles

My withering November garden.

Only stonecrop thrives

Among the shriveled thistles, chicory

And Queen Anne’s Lace. In my depression,

I let them go to seed.

 

IX

Daylight savings’s over in November.

Fall back and gain an extra hour

To while away in bed

Dreading another day

Of uninspired ordinary options.

 

X

November rain falls hard and cold

Grave of my golden retriever Lucky

Grave of my golden retriever Lucky

On my neglected garden

Nourishing buried bulbs of daffodil and crocus.

In spring they’ll bloom again around the graves

Of late beloved pets.

 

XI

People are prone to seasonal affective sadness

In this the eleventh month, so says my shrink.

But still I hold firm to nearly barren branches,

Stubborn as rusty crimson smoke tree leaves

In the November rain.

 

©Julie Lomoe

November 4, 2010

 

 

The NaNoWriMo Challenge – Do you play well with others?

Baldacci Total Control coverWarming up the car this morning before taking off for my Nia class, tardy as usual, I caught the tail end of an interview with the best-selling novelist David Baldacci on WAMC Northeast Public Radio. Joe Donahue, the interviewer on The Roundtable, asked him if he’d ever consider collaborating with another writer. “No,” he said. “I don’t play well with others.” 

Donahue was referring to writers like James Patterson and Janet Evanovich, who have published novels with a co-author listed in smaller type below their names. “Why would I do that?” asked Baldacci. “It would spoil all the fun.” 

I’m with him – I don’t write well in groups. Case in point: National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I signed up again this month, though it’s been an exercise in frustration when I participated in past Novembers. Writing 50,000 words in a month is a daunting task. It comes out to an average of 1,617 words a day. You post your daily word count on a jazzy bar graph on the NaNo website. The graph and its accompanying chart track your progress and the date you can be expected to finish if you proceed at your current pace. Last night the site told me I’d finish on Christmas eve if I churned out about 2,500 words a day. In other words, I’d lose. 

The Albany area has a large and dedicated group of NaNo participants. There are multiple write-ins at various locations in the Capital Region. For the most part they’re at cafes and coffee houses, and for good reason – the caffeine tends to inspire jacked-up bouts of creativity, and people can hang out for hours nursing a single cup of coffee. Personally, I feel it’s only fair to order some food as well. This usually takes the form of high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar concoctions. One of my favorites is warm apple pie a la mode drenched in caramel sauce. Denny's French toast ad

That particular diet destroyer is on the dessert menu at Denny’s, where write-ins take place every Sunday night. Writers with laptops descend on the place like locusts at the Latham location, where they’ve taken to saving a separate side room for us. The Municipal Liaison, aka chief cheerleader, is Shannon Kauderer, a young woman with blond hair shading to green, who’s a chemist by day and science fiction writer by night. 

These Sunday night write-ins have an unusual format: folks write silently for 20 minutes, then socialize for 20 minutes, then write, then socialize. And so it goes, usually till midnight, sometimes as late as 2:00 a.m. (The fact that Denny’s is open 24/7 is a major inducement to patronize the place.) 

My husband thrives on this format. He can flail away at his laptop, then get up and stroll around the room, chatting with the other participants, most of whom are several decades our juniors. Then when Shannon sounds the timer, he can sit back down and resume writing right where he left off. Others can apparently write this way, although I have no clue as to the quality of what they’re churning out. Still others ignore the chit chat and write straight through the social breaks. 

Woman Writing, Picasso 1934

Woman Writing, Picasso 1934

I can do neither – at least not well. I work best in absolute solitude, with only my dog or cat for occasional company. No background music, no interruptions except for full-blown emergencies. I’ve learned to write during those 20-minute sprints, but I hate turning my creative process on and off at will. And I never talk about what I’m writing in the midst of writing it. For me, it dissipates my energy and scares away my ever-elusive muse. Huddling silently over my laptop while my spouse enjoys the company of younger women, I may come across as curmudgeonly, but I truly don’t care. Like David Baldacci, I don’t play well with others. 

Still, despite my reservations, I’ll probably show up for another Denny’s write-in. The positive energy is infectious, and I’m getting better at jumping right into my writing without procrastinating. I may make my 50,000 word count after all. Besides, there are lots of scrumptious desserts I haven’t tried yet. 

What about you? Can you write with others around, or do you require solitude? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Drifting downstream in search of inspiration

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, 1888

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, 1888

In search of illustrations for this blog post about NaNoWriMo and my writing process, I Googled “Woman Writing Painting.” Hundreds of images popped up, and as I scrolled through them, this painting of the Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse* caught my eye. The woman is drifting on a river, face tilted skyward, eyes downcast, in an exotic black boat. What is she doing amidst all the images of women sitting demurely in gardens or cozy interiors?

Through still more Googling, I learned that the work is inspired by a poem by Tennyson, in which the reclusive Lady of Shalott is lured by the sight of Sir Lancelot to leave her island and drift downstream in a boat to Camelot. As she floats, she sings until she dies.* But to me she’s a striking image for creativity, drifting downstream, open to whatever comes her way. It’s an image reminiscent of John Lennon’s lyrics too – “Picture yourself in a boat on a river” and “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”

But I digress. Still, that’s the beautiful thing about sitting down at the computer in front of a blankJohn Lennon Imagine illustration screen – you never know where it will take you. In part, this image, labelled as being in the public domain, inspired me to look for other nineteenth-century paintings that might serve as cover illustrations for Hope Dawns Eternal. I’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to hire an illustrator, designer and webmaster to maximize the impact of the book when I launch it, but maybe the illustrator won’t be necessary. So far, the results have been underwhelming, but I’m determined to persevere. One way or another, I’ll launch the book before the end of the year.

I’m so convinced of the potential of Hope Dawns Eternal that I’ve created a brand-new blog at www.hopedawnseternal.net. That site will focus exclusively on my vampire soap opera thriller and my route to publication, as well as on the sequel, Sunlight and Shadow. (I’ll be keeping up this site as well, and sometimes you may see me cross-posting on both. If you do, please pardon the repetition, but please subscribe to both.)

I’ve been working on Sunlight and Shadow during this month’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. I’m woefully behind,

Another Waterhouse painting of the Lady of Shalott, titled "I am half sick of shadows"

Another Waterhouse painting of the Lady of Shalott, titled “I am half sick of shadows”

because I’ve devoted the first third of this month to grandmothering duties and to the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, of which I’m President. (You can learn more about this important community ministry, which helps folks learn more about affordable funerals, by visiting www.hudsonmohawkfca.wordpress.org. )

I’m aiming for 33,333*** words by November 30th, the equivalent of two/thirds of the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words. I know I can reach the 50K goal with the aid of some creative copying and pasting, and by counting blogging and journaling as part of the word count. Strictly speaking, that’s cheating, but who knows – I might even reach the word count legitimately if I can barrel through the doubts and insecurities that are entangling my creative process as I relax and float downstream.

*John William Waterhouse, a British artist born in 1849, the period when the Pre-Raphaelite style was at its height; he adopted the style decades later.

Alfred Lord Tennyson**Tennyson’s poem is beautifully evocative, and I was inspired to learn more about him. The biography at www.poetryfoundation.org describes how he suffered from deep depressions and was fearful of succumbing to the mental illness that ran in his family.

***$3,333 is the amount I’m hoping to raise on GoFundMe. Please help me by visiting www.gofundme.com/gep8ts. Every little bit helps. You can win prizes, too, including signed first editions of my books.