Ah, November. A blank page on which to write.
Today marks one week into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). This year, I’ve made a commitment to the scribbling craft. The pledge? To write every day.
The force rolling me along is four fellow writers (a.k.a. The Furious 5). Each day, we email the group to report on how much time we’ve written, and sometimes what we worked on. Despite the “novel” aspect of NaNoWriMo, our group sets no requirements for genre. Among our quintet, we’ve already covered fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Timing is also flexible. As one member put it, you can write for “5 minutes or 5 hours.”
If this November is even a fraction as productive as last year, I’ll consider it a success.
What writing commitment could you make for 30 days?
Working off Thanksgiving dinner in New York. Thinking burns a ton of calories, you know. Photo credit: Marji Yablon.
As I write this, it is Thanksgiving. It’s also Day 26 of NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. Like many others, I’m grateful for both the family and food I’ve enjoyed today. Like a hefty helping of my fellow writers, I’m also thankful for an opportunity to write (mostly) fiction (almost) every day this month.
I want to take a moment to reflect on what I’ve been doing for the past three-plus weeks. My arrangement is a network binding myself and three other scribes into a daily writing practice. We haven’t pledged to write a novel from whole cloth during this month (though one of us has, indeed, put the final stitches in her book-in-progress. Congratulations, Celeste!) We haven’t even committed to 30 days of fiction. It’s just about writing creatively–for any amount of time–every single day.
What has this meant for me? Let’s see. I’ve written:
- Nine flash fiction stories
- Five zygotes of additional stories
- One pitch for an article (which was accepted!)
- The article (link coming by Hanukkah)
- Another pitch for an article (awaiting review)
- A mysterious file that is blank except for the title “Maybe we thaw and gel”
Great thanks to Celeste, Dottye, and Cheryl for making this happen over daily emails. I’ll miss those one- and two-sentence check-ins. Looking forward to four more days, at the least.
Bomb clip art by Arvin61r58
Interviews are minefields for sources. And the resulting articles? Almost too fickle and frightening to contemplate. At least that’s the view taken by the subject of a Rolling Stone feature who I’ve been reading about lately.
Ben Schlappig’s reaction to major media attention shows the one-two punch of trepidation and surprise that only a savvy source can experience. He describes being cautious taking part in the reporting process for Ben Wofford’s piece, and expecting to emerge either more flattered than he expected or woefully disappointed at the portrayal. The maelstrom of coverage—most of it piggybacking on the RS coverage (see here, here, here, and here)—also got me thinking about journalism ethics.
It’s time for another What I’m Consuming post. I started with a collection of shortish fiction. This next one is a collection of short nonfiction (i.e. essays) — Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial, 2014).
What it is and why it’s here
Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by a fiction writer and cultural critic. Gay chews on and critiques all manner of things in pieces you may recognize from Slate, The Rumpus, and others.
The book starts off with disarming reads. Gay’s first essay on feminism has her questioning the absolutism many associate with the term. “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy,” Gay writes. She is also:
…a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible to women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.
Check out my experience at Out of the Binders, aka #BinderCon, on Storify: https://storify.com/RheaYK/out-of-the-binders.
I was inspired by the Storify version of the Google For Media Summit, I decided to make one myself for this conference for women and gender non-conforming writers. Thanks for reading!
Journalists and all creative users of video, data, and technology: The Google for Media summit in NYC last week was pretty mind-blowing. From the Google Trends workshop alone, I had dozens of story ideas. And did you know Miley Cyrus crashed her fans’ Google hangouts?
If you’re interested in what we learned, check out this Storify summary. You may see a familiar face in the tweets!
I recently had a new literary experience. Usually, both fiction and nonfiction touch on familiar emotions and universal struggles—even if the actual milieu is alien to me. Take, for example, Elissa Altman’s Poor Man’s Feast (Chronicle Books, 2013), which I just started reading and already know will make me nearly miss many a metro stop. In this story, I grasp and learn from this editor-turned-memoirist’s search for love and satisfaction in life. The environment of the Altman family’s Thanskgiving/Chanukah feast accessoried with candied-violet-topped pumpkin flan and $100 scotch, on the other hand, isn’t exactly my grandfather’s green beans with slivered almonds. Continue reading
When fellow writer Bill Lascher invited me to appear on his podcast, The Thinkingest, I took one look at the title and knew I’d found a home. Our conversation, largely about overthinking food, just came out. What is my (over)thinking regarding the White House Kitchen Garden, who advocates for food access, and bringing lunch to the office? How about Bill’s take on the proliferation of bacon? Find out in the blog post and podcast. Also follow Bill’s progress on a book about Melville Jacoby, the first Time Magazine reporter to die in the line of duty.
Photo by Flickr user kkfea
Every Yom Kippur, I take my attention away from my growling stomach and the repentant prayers for a moment to think I should write about this. I never do. Luckily, Gabe Popkin, a friend and graduate student in science writing at Johns Hopkins, has now done it for me. Gabe addresses the psychological and spiritual effects of going without food for religious purposes in The Sieve. I am honored to be one of the people he quoted for the piece, along with a rabbinical student, a Muslim community leader, and a D.C. cab driver.
Grab a snack and check out “Yom Kippur and the Science of Fasting.”
A woman with an automatic rifle was one of the images in a Videofreex screening held in Washington, D.C. in January 2011. Photo by Rhea.
The package came a couple of months ago. It contained a free copy of Nancy Cain’s Video Days: And what we saw though the viewfinder. The author had signed the title page, “To Rhea with love. (Videofreex: the next generation)”
I tucked into the book eager to learn more about my father’s life before I existed, hoping to understand more now that he’s gone. I found something unexpected.
Video Days chronicles Nancy’s adventures beginning in the era of 30-pound cameras that democratized the art. It continues until 1996, a few years short of the one-handed Flip Cam era. During the social revolution that straddled the late ’60s and early ’70s, the young Nancy runs off to join the New York video-making collective known as the Videofreex. There, she works alongside my dad, Chuck Kennedy. They all live in a rambling former boarding house in Lanesville, N.Y.
Somewhere in this Freex section, I hit a passage that struck me as familiar:
Chuck was born in the Bronx and spent a large part of his youth in a Catholic orphanage. At a certain point, he was given the choice between reform school or the Army, so he joined up. In the Army, Chuck learned electronics and saw the world. Continue reading