Write a novel!

NaNoWriMo starts Saturday!

What is NaNoWriMo? It’s National Novel Writing Month, where a community of creative folks all get down with their pens and paper, their laptops, their typewriters, or in the case of Christopher Paolini, their quills and parchment. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s the standard length of a novella. Plenty of authors have gone on to turn their NaNos into published books.

tea and writing!

Last year’s NaNoWriMo scene

But I’m not a writer, you protest. Nonsense. I believe each and every human has the ability to be a storyteller. It’s what kept us going back in our cavemen days, as we huddled around the fire. It’s what keeps us going now, from the time we’re babies and soothed to sleep by fairytales. Every day is a story.

What should you write? Anything. Everything. Finally pen your memoirs. Or make up a fan fiction of your own life, where you’re a super hero (or villain) and how you’ll change the world. Write what makes you happy, write the book you’d want to read.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo three times now. The first two, I did while in college, among writing papers and tracking down people for interviews in my journalism articles. The third, I did last year, when I was working 50 hours or so in the city. I’d type out my daily word count on the screen of my phone.

NaNoWriMo is all about getting your story out. For once, it’s actually about quantity over quality. So go ahead and spew whatever rubbish comes to mind. By the end, you might see a diamond twinkling amid all those words. Or at least, a bit of carbon that with some high pressure and heat (or just a lot of editing) you can turn into a diamond. And I think you’ll be proud either way. You did just spend a month on it.

My tips for NaNo 

  • Make use of the forums! The forums are full of ideas for when you get stuck, challenges to get your creativity revving again, and word count sprints so you can reach that sweet 50k. One of my favorite challenges was to use the word pamplemousse in my story, which is French for grapefruit. Random, but fun!
  • Don’t go back and edit! Especially if you’re behind on your word count. Just plunge bravely forward. Imagine you’ll turn into a pillar of salt if you look back, like Lot’s wife
  • Write Or Die. This site is perfect for getting your words up. It doles out the tough love by erasing your words if you take too long to type
  • Writing meet-ups! Each region has its own board on the forums, full of people in your area who will be there to be your comrades in this mighty battle. Go to the nearest cafe, load up on the caffeine, and get typing.
  • Turn it into your daily routine. Try to write as soon as you wake up and have your coffee. Apparently, science says that we are most productive in the two hours after we wake up, which is usually the time we’re checking our emails, or idly scrolling through gossip sites. Don’t do that.

So, do you think you’re up for NaNoWriMo? For me, it takes now about an hour to reach my daily amount of words, which is about 1,667 if you want to finish on time. An hour! That’s like, one less hour that you watch cruddy television or stare at your toes, or I don’t know what.

Try it! If I could manage it on the busy trains of Metro North, then I have the utmost faith in you.

Love always,

PS, I always feel like the first day is the hardest. I mean, it’s the day AFTER Halloween. But I still believe we can do it! Even if we are typing while wearing the smudges of last night’s costumes on our faces and our stomachs all grumbly from too much candy.


Inspiration 10.26.14

Less than a week til Halloween! This week I saw Gone Girl, which was spectacularly good and mind bending as the novel, and I broke out my Gatsby shirt for the first time. There are little bits of happiness to be found everywhere, even as the sun teases us with less light day by day. The leaves are a beautiful color and the chill puts the color in our cheeks. It’s wonderful to watch nature transform and change in parallel to our own frenetic lives.

Enough pontificating! So, Halloween. I hope you’re being something nice and scary. It’s certainly feeling like fall now, isn’t it? Hopefully Halloween won’t give us any tricks this year in the form of another flash blizzard, hurricane, or nor’easter. Let’s have some treats instead.

Have a spooky, spiffy, spirited week!

Love always,

In Bocca Al Lupo

A couple of years ago, I fiddled with the idea of collecting trinkets for good luck. Charm bracelets. Evil eyes to ward off the bad, and wishbones to incite the good. I was going to gather even the most obscure of objects like lady bug and acorn charms, and even a potted lucky bamboo.

Well, I’ve changed my tune. Sure, luck exists, because things outside of our control exist. But I think we need to take charge.

See, Italians have the best expression to wish someone good luck – it’s ‘In Bocca Al Lupo’, which translates to ‘into the wolf’s mouth’. I love this expression. It’s fierce, headstrong, and is about plunging you into the fray of whatever you’re facing.

Rely on your own strength. Go with your gut. Trust in yourself, and go down fighting, or better yet, damn the odds and succeed. After all, a victory that is pre-assured isn’t nearly as satisfying.

Mala the Wolf (Dog)

My original wolf. Er, doggy.

Luck is a fickle concept. It can go well or poorly, and you have hardly a say. It is reminiscent of clutching at four-leaf clovers and rabbits’ feet. And sometimes, you need luck. Sometimes all you can do is sit back on your hands and watch the horseshoe and hope it’s facing the right way, so blessings fill up and not pour out.

But more often than not, you need to go boldly and face your wolves. You need to ignore the jagged teeth. Turn toward your fear.

The scariest part to me since graduating was the unknown. The ambiguity of the future, the paths before me that all seemed equally sheathed in shadow. I mean, at the end of the day, they’re all paths to the same places – a career of some sorts, financial independence, the rest of my existence on this earth.

But it’s still a struggle not to worry. Wrong choices and right choices – do they really exist? Or are they just choice a, choice b, choice c, and so on. Like Robert Frost meant in his poem, two paths diverged in a wood, but they end up at the same place. So the specific choice maybe doesn’t matter so much.

What does matter is the actual choosing. Not choosing is the worst. Life is going to happen, no matter what you do. Change is inevitable, and if you do nothing, you can bet that it’s going to be a whole lot of change you’re not going to like. So the important thing is to start making choices, even if they’re infinitesimal. You don’t want life to make the choices for you, because the universe generally doesn’t care about us. It’s busy. So stand up. Go and face your wolves head on.

Love always,

(Also, I have to say, I think I must have a rather fire and brimstones type of spirit. In Bocca Al Lupo, my love for my potential viking blood, etc etc. Well, if I’m descended from Ancient Romans, and vikings and whatever Germanic tribes settled the Rhinelands [actually I think those were farmers], then it makes bloody sense. But then again, aren’t we all descended from warriors who claimed some jagged rock of land as their own?)

Inspiration 10.19.14

Hello, hello! I spent today shivering (50 degrees is my idea of winter), and picking both apples and pumpkins with some lovely friends. And of course, warming our hands with hot cider! On the farm, there was a bakery that let you watch fresh cider doughnuts being made and that had my gluten-hating body feeling quite sad for a moment. Oh well. I’ll just have to make my own. While I hate the cold and hope to one day live for a bit in a place where it’s warm year-round, I would miss these autumnal rites of passage!

Here are some links to peruse as the crisp chill of fall settles nicely in –

Have a opulent, outstanding, odd week!

Love always,

Accomplished! New York Comic Con

Okay, okay I’m cheating. Last weekend’s New York Comic Con wasn’t my first rodeo. Er, convention. I’ve been to a handful, with a go at NYCC a couple years ago. I’ve also been to the Javitz Center quite a few times, on both the attending and working side when I was a Nespresso brand ambassador.

(Working is just as fun as attending! But maybe I’ve just naive, and was totally hyped on caffeine back then)

Anyway, this year’s NYCC still counts as an accomplishment because it was a few of my friends’ first time there.

NYCC my friends and me!

New York Comic Con is fun for so many reasons. There are panels for your most beloved fictional worlds, both lauding and dissecting the tropes within them. The stars and minds behind those worlds are there in the flesh and not about to issue a restraining order on you for approaching them. Publishers with their geekiest books, who are clearly after my own heart. Artists and vendors so you can score some serious swag.

But I think my favorite part of it all is the costuming. I love seeing the creativity people put to celebrate their favorite fictional characters and works. I love the parents who bring their children and dress up along with them. I love the accepting environment. There are people whose costumes qualify as art and belong on professional film sets. But even if you just put on a pokemon hat and a jacket, you’re good. You’re with your people.

And as my friend excitedly said to me, “Gaby! Here, we’re the extroverted ones!”

We were dressed up, because that is half the fun. The best is when you have a costume that is recognized by others, and makes them smile. I was Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, a Miyazaki film. My friend was Kiki’s cat. So many people stopped us for a picture. Our other friends went as Link from the Legend of Zelda, Sherlock Holmes, and a character from Arrow. We looked pretty phenomenal, but I’m biased.

So what were some of my favorite costumes?

NYCC costumes 1

This father and his son, dressed up like two different Doctors. This guy, Han Solo, complete with Millennium Falcon and Chewbacca. And an adorable little snookum who wore the same costume as me!

NYCC costumes 2

There was a gentleman dressed as the Mad Hatter, selling mini top hats and my friend bought one for her bunnies. This posse of Disney villains, who somehow kidnapped Esmeralda and brought her along with them. And this ensemble of Orange is the New Black was spot on! There were so many Elsa’s and Anna’s from Frozen, and even one Olaf. And a lot of people just wearing fezzes – clearly they miss the Eleventh doctor. And despite Harry Potter being done with for seven years, there were a good amount of wizards and witches. I saw a great Ravenclaw quidditch player!

Also, I have to mention my friend Marissa who had a crazy awesome Daenarys costume with a Drogon she made herself! No idea how, but that girl is a costume wizard.

No Face and me!

I think my absolute favorite was running into No Face from Spirited Away, which is another Miyazaki film. I didn’t notice this until after our picture, but No Face was holding some Snickers, which then he proffered to me. In the film, No Face always offers to others what they want most, which ends up usually not as a good thing. I turned down the Snickers… but that was more because I don’t like candy (my child self is horrified by that development, by the way).

Ahh, I love festivals. All sorts! Farmers’ markets, street fairs, Icelandic viking festivals, the Renaissance faire. Sometimes the media makes it seem like everything social in grown-up land has to happen after dark, in a booming club, with endless shots of brightly colored drinks. I especially love anything that celebrates stories and fiction and art, so NYCC was my sort of field trip.

I need to find more of these sorts of adventures!

Love always,

Inspiration 10.13.14

Happy holiday that really ought not to be a holiday. Me? I’ll be raising my glass to Leif Erikson and the good old vikings. I quite like vikings. At least we don’t bother hiding the fact they pillaged and burned towns to cinders, like the way we hush things over for Columbus. If you’re going to be bad, at least own up to it. Or just… don’t be bad. There’s a valid option too.

Anyway! This week, I spent getting excited and ready for New York Comic Con! More on that, later. I’ve also been steadfastly tackling my Autumn Bucket List, though I do still have yet to go apple picking. Pumpkin pies have already been made though. Time to fatten up for winter hibernation, right?

  1. Fashion week’s over, but here’s a fascinating look into the secret life of a fashion week peon
  2. Authors and the tangled love webs they wove in this scandalous hook-up chart
  3. Looking at where nine famous women were at age 23 definitely soothes my type-A mind
  4. Overwhelmed? Ten small ways to declutter on the fly is easy enough!
  5. Yum. Gluten-free croissants. Think we can start a bakery with these alone?
  6. I want to visit obscure countries! Check out this mini travel guide to Tonga
  7. I’m kind of in love with this – a hotline to give out as your number to creepy strangers

Have a moony, mirthful, monumental week!

Love always,

Autumn Bucket List!

I think it’s good for me to share my seasonal bucket lists, as I have failed with sharing my master bucket list. That’s coming too, eventually. But seasonal bucket lists are fun because they let you enjoy the events of the year with all the excitement you had when you were younger!

I shared my summer book challenge earlier this year, and luckily completed all but one or two on the list. Let’s hope I get the same success rate with this autumnal list. Send me some suggestions if you have any!

Autumn street

Not quite autumn yet on this lovely street. Soon.

  1. Go apple picking or pumpkin picking 
    I live in the apple state. It’s a necessary requirement or they revoke your citizenship.
  2. Then, bake something with apple or pumpkin
    It seems like everything is getting in on the pumpkin spice game. There’s pumpkin spice Oreos, pumpkin spice jello, and pumpkin spice vodka out there. Well, us gluten free folk can instead pay homage to the classics instead – let’s bake some pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, or pumpkin cake.
  3. Find a super cute, super warm sweater to live in
    Or multiple sweaters. Plus flannel. Plus if you’re me, this translates into a winter-jacket I wear inside my house from the months of October – March, on top of said super cute, super warm sweater.
  4. Take a walk, and stomp some crunchy leaves
    Put on your favorite boots and go crispy leaf crunching! Or grab a rake and make a giant pile to jump in. Admire all the lovely colors of the trees.
  5. Build the first fire of the year
    Unless you don’t have a fireplace. In which case, go build a fire some place fun and indulge your inner pyromaniac
  6. Choose a fall warm beverage to obsess over.
    It could be pumpkin spice lattes, or you can switch it up. Start each morning with Earl Grey or a fantastically decadent vanilla hazelnut coffee blend. Anything you can put into a mug and hold onto like a warm, yummy lifesaver.
  7. Get in the Halloween spirit
    I live quite near Sleepy Hollow, so it’s sacrilegious not to participate in some spooky shenanigans. Go on a haunted hayride or a graveyard tour. Let the hairs on the back of your neck prick up and get yourself properly scared.
  8. Make your fall/winter cocoon or nook
    You need a spot to stay warm! Whether it’s piling your bed up with a zillion layers of blankets and comforters, or finding a spot to plant your butt next to your fireplace. It’s your hibernation space. I really want a kotatsu table one day, which is a Japanese table with an electric heater under it and blanket over it.
  9. Requisite Nightmare Before Christmas viewing
    I can never decide if this is a Halloween or Christmas movie. Sooo it should be both! Watch it now, and again in December.
  10. Orange and black, everywhere
    Decorating shouldn’t just be for the winter holidays! Post up some ghosts, witches, and pumpkins. A couple cobwebs here and there. You got this.

Have any fall plans before winter comes? Give me more things to do!

Love always,