Now I remember: This NaNoWriMo thing is hard

footer-nanowrimoI’m at 7,333 words. And I’m wondering what on earth I was thinking when I took this challenge on again. It’s hard to write all these words.

Especially hard when the self critic wakes up strong and ready to fill my head:

  • What is this story about anyway?
  • Have you heard of plot?
  • Do you think you’re a writer?
  • Why did you choose this “novel in stories” format? You’ve never done that before, you know.
  • You’re only at 7,333 words and you’re tired?
  • You have more than 42,000 words left. That’s a lot, you know.

But, I trudge on. This morning I told myself: This is the life of a writer — being in your head, battling that critic and getting words (somehow) on the page.

As I stared at the screen, cursor blinking, waiting for me to write SOMETHING at 6:33 am, I realized I was too close to one character. So, I changed her name, her situation, her family.

When I took a step back and switched those details, I was able to write 300 words. Whew.

Roughly 42,000 to go.

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Day three and I’m behind 2,000+ words

footer-nanowrimoDue to a power outage for 7 hours yesterday, I’m now behind by 2,000+ words. (I could have written by hand but it was an otherwise busy day — including hosting a baby shower at our house…in the dark.)

I know from past experience, I can’t let this word gap go on for too long or I won’t catch up. So, the next few days are all about catching up. Maybe even getting ahead?

Today’s goal: have a total of 4,000 5,000 words on the page.


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NaNo has begun!

footer-nanowrimoNaNoWriMo has begun.

Today I woke up late. I have a sick kid at home. But, I managed to get in 1,704 words. (I’d never have done that if I wasn’t participating in NaNo.)

I’m aiming for 2,000 per day so that I am not stressed about word count when Thanksgiving arrives.

In my prep for Halloween, I didn’t manage to write the last two “what I love about NaNo” posts that I’d planned to write here at Motherlogue. So I’m going to capture two things I love about NaNo, ideas came to me as I sat typing on my NaNo novel this morning:

  • NaNo offers me the chance to recall writing advice, lessons and tips I’ve learned through the years. Today as I was cruising along, I was wrapping up the first chapter. I was tempted to stop there. But, I knew I needed to start the next chapter — it will make it much easier (as I read from some famous author) to jump back in if I leave the writing at an “unfinished place”. Remembering this made me feel confident: there are things I’ve learned and can recall about writing that will help me make this huge goal.
  • NaNo provides an opportunity to get focused. As I announced on my Facebook page last night — I’m taking a month-long hiatus from Facebook. (Gasp!)  To be honest, this morning I did one 5-minute check to see if anyone had commented on the post about my hiatus. People left great encouragement, I read their kind words and now I’m off for good. Really. (And yes, I do have a problem). This month hiatus will be a good opportunity for me to focus and get a little less dependent on social media.

Thanks for being here. Write on.


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Four Days Until NaNoWriMo

footer-nanowrimoWhat’s another thing I love about NaNoWriMo? Community.

The sense of community it creates. From the kick-off parties to the group write-ins to the online “buddies”, there is no feeling that you’re in this crazy adventure on your own.

It’s pretty cool that the whole concept of NaNoWriMo was created by one group of friends who sat in community one day and said, “What if we tried to write a novel in a month?”

And now that community has grown to more than 200, 000 people.

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Five Days Until NaNoWriMo

footer-nanowrimoOn Friday, I will once again take the NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m excited.

I successfully finished NaNoWriMo in 2010. I didn’t take the challenge in 2011. Last year I took the challenge and stopped two days in because I realized there wasn’t any way I could teach my NaNoWriMo class for 3-6 graders AND write 50,000 words.

This morning on my morning walk, a new idea for the novel I’m planning to write came to mind. That’s one thing I love about NaNoWriMo: it opens my mind and lets the creative juices start to mix, mingle and flow.

In honor of NaNoWriMo starting on Friday (gulp), I’ll be posting one thing I love about NaNoWriMo each day. I invite you to share what you love about it, too!

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A Writer Writes About Math (Part 2)

As I said in my previous post:

I am a writer.

A word girl.

A lover of language.

And, thanks to many less-than-ideal experiences with math, math is not my thing.

Which explains why I went into panic mode when my son’s 4th Grade teacher told me I’d be helping some kids with their math last week. Thank God for the answer key, I thought,  as I headed to the hall with the first student I’d be helping.

“Do you remember taking a test at the beginning of the year?” I asked him as we sat down, side by side at a table outside Room 18.

“Yeah, on the computer,” he shrugged

“Well, this morning I’m going to work with people on problems that they missed,” I pointed to the stack of assessments. “Just so we can be sure that you understand how to do those math problems now.”

I attempted an encouraging smile, knowing that the last thing I’d want to do is revisit problems I’d missed on a math test. Rather than jumping right in, I decided to ask this boy if he liked math.

“It’s okay,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Again. (You can’t fool me, I thought…I, too, am a shrugger of shoulders when it comes to math.)

“Can I tell you something?” I asked. He looked up.

“Math’s not my favorite thing either.”

He smiled.

“Once, when I was in Third Grade, a teacher…” and I shared my first math story with him. I explained abo0ut the multiplication tables I didn’t know. Described the mean teacher from down the hall and the line of kids waiting behind me.

“Whoa,” his eyes got wide. He was with me in that doorway and I knew it.

“Yeah, it was the worst,” I told him. “But today’s not like that. You and me? We’re just going to go through these together and figure them out.”

He smiled.

And we started to work on those problems. I glanced at his assessment records — he’d missed at least 10 questions out of 40. So we went through them, one by one. The fractions. The story problems. The division. The estimates of measurement.

We were on a roll. I was feeling great. The problems and answers (after 33 years)  actually made sense to me.

Then one question came up and I couldn’t explain it. What would you do if you’d estimated that number and had to get to the real number? Quickly, this problem was like a foreign language I didn’t understand.

I had to refer to the answer key. And, I felt like a loser.

Loud and clear my inner critic bellowed: “Really, Liz? You’re 42 years old and you’re looking at the answer key for 4th grade math? Who are you kidding? Why are you volunteering to help these kids? If the teacher saw you looking at the answer key, she’d tell you to go home!”

And then I really saw that kid sitting next to me. The one who had missed at least 1/4 of the problems on the test. I looked at him. He watched as I referred to the answer key.

He didn’t care if I had to check the answer. In fact, it might have made him feel better to see that I — an adult (!) — might not know the answer.

That’s when I knew why I was the right person to be helping this boy. With this kid, I could be real about math. I didn’t have to pretend (like I did 33 years ago) that I knew everything. I could show him that I, too, might need help with some of these problems. I might help him see that, even though he thinks so, math doesn’t come easy to everyone else but him.

And in that moment I found my lesson: if my response to math can help even one kid see that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to understand that we all make mistakes, that life does exist after 4th grade math, it’s all worth it.

(If you ask me, that’s going to be a much more valuable lesson than memorizing the product of 9 x 8.)

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A Writer Writes About Math (Part 1)

I am a writer.

A word girl.

A lover of language.

Since I can remember, math has not been my thing. In fact, at many times during my school years, it was really not my thing.

This was especially true one spring day in 1980.

In 1980 I was nine years old. It was the year my parents got divorced. My dad moved out, leaving blank walls where his favorite art pieces had been, blank stares from my friends when I told them my parents had separated and a blank canvas where we’d eventually rebuild our family.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Weaver, was a wonderful woman…loving, accepting and a divorced mother who understood what my family was going through. Among other things, Mrs. Weaver was helping our class learn multiplication. (Remember, it was 1980, so we were learning the old school way: route memorization of facts.)

Amidst the chaos of my parents divorce, learning, grasping and memorizing multiplication facts was not going well for this word girl. I was never so happy as the day I found the multiplication table on the back flap of my Pee Chee folder.

But, Mrs. Weaver didn’t stress over my multiplication mishaps. So I wasn’t stressing, either, until Ms. Staub — a fifth grade teacher from down the hall — made my math skills an issue.

Mrs. Weaver excused our class to leave for recess. We were in a rush that only third graders can understand. We had to get outside. Now. Or we might just die.

As I reached the door to our classroom, Ms. Staub stood in the doorway.

“Miss Larson,” she said to me, “What’s 9 x 8?”

I stared at her. Couldn’t she have picked something from the 2s?

Her frame blocked the doorway. Her hands were on her hips. She wasn’t moving until I gave her an answer.


She shook her head. (She may have sneered, but that could just be my interpretation.)

I started moving my fingers against my jeans as if I were playing the piano…1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9…

“Are you using your fingers?”

“No,” I lied.

Kids were lining up behind me, anxious to get outside. It felt like the entire class was pushing against my back. A tsunami ready to wash over me at any minute.

“81? 77? 70?” I started to whisper random numbers. Over and over she shook her head.

Somehow, I landed on the right one.


“Yes. You may go outside…”

I won’t go into how, from a teaching standpoint, this scenario is so very wrong. I’m grateful to this day that my mother called the school to report the incident. That was my first lesson in speaking up when you’ve been treated unfairly.

So yesterday…33 years later…while I was volunteering at the elementary school and my son’s teacher asked me to help a few kids with their math, I thought: Oh, crap.

Me, help with math? I started to breathe again when she told me I’d have an answer key.

Next post I’ll share what this writer, this word girl and this lover of words learned  about herself while helping some 9-year-old boys with their math.

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