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Month: October 2016

Am I Crazy to Attempt NaNoWriMo?

Am I Crazy to Attempt NaNoWriMo?

The NaNoWriMo season is nearly upon us, and I don’t know about you, but I am not ready. Not at all, and I’m beginning to wonder…Am I crazy to attempt NaNoWriMo? Where will I ever find time to write an average of 1,667 words a day?!? I’m too dang busy.


But isn’t everyone busy? And isn’t the inherent craziness of NaNoWriMo exactly why we love it? I think many of us face the same problem when it comes to our writing lives. We want to write, we love to write, but finding time to write is nigh impossible. Between school, work, laundry, groceries, family, the days slip away in a monotonous blur without us having written a single word. But you know what? Most writers are too busy to write. In fact, most writers, like you and me, have great reasons not to write.

But they do it anyway.

This November my reason not to write comes in the form of a newborn babe. How on earth will I ever get anything done when this tiny human wants nothing more than to be held 24/7 and suckled on demand? Since the birth of my bundle of joy the days have passed in a whirlwind of breastfeed, burp, bounce, repeat. I’ve lost hope of ever sleeping through the night again and most  days I struggle to find time to shower.  I surveyed the veteran mommies in my life and was told not to expect to get anything done until the baby is 5 months old…my little human will only be 7 weeks when November rolls around.

We all have spouses, or children, or dogs, or cats, or houseplants that we’re responsible for. Some writers even have another full-time job that (gasp) has nothing to do with writing. Yet, they still write. Instead of finding the time to write, they make the time to write. Although I’m more than a little intimidated at the prospect of balancing baby duties with noveling, I’m going to do it anyway because that’s the kind of craziness that NaNoWriMo is all about.

If you’re overwhelmed with life and not sure if you can take on NaNoWriMo, you’re not alone. The key to success when you’re busy is strategy. If you ask yourself these basic questions and put together a simple plan, then you’ll be well on your way to victory.


When will you write? The toughest obstacle is finding and protecting your writing time. Maybe you need to set the alarm to an ungodly hour of darkness so you can get words in before work. Maybe you’ll be writing like the wind on your lunch break. Maybe you’ll be giving up facebook and netflix. In our busy lives finding time is hard so plan ahead. If you are committing to NaNoWriMo you need to answer the when question. My strategy consists of writing when the baby is sleeping, eating, or being entertained by someone else. After my little one is fed into a milky slumber at 3 AMI’m going to hit the keyboard before I hit the hay. During November I expect to sleep less, but when you stuff something new into your life something has to give.


Where will you write? The easy answer is everywhere. At work, at home, at the coffee shop. At the kitchen counter in between stirring the soup and bouncing the baby, at the dining room table while the family eats, propped up in bed while the spouse snores. If possible carve out a physical writing space and make it sacred. This means that when you sit in this location (be it desk, couch, or kitchen stool) you are writing your novel, not surfing the internet. Having a space where you can get down to business without being disturbed helps you get into the flow of writing faster and be efficient with your limited writing time. Let your family or roommates know that your writing space is an interruption free zone. Use your writing space as an island of tranquility in your hectic life.


How will you  pull this off? How will I write a novel when the house needs cleaning, dinner needs cooking, and the newborn needs diapering/feeding/constant cuddling?! First of all, let the house fall apart. Would you rather have the house get dusty or hold a novel? As for dinner, make big pots of soup that last several days and thank the heavens for my favorite two words: frozen pizza. How you pull off NaNoWriMo largely depends on your current time management skills. If you have a pinning, facebooking, tumblring, or netflixing obsession than you need to practice self discipline, or give it up cold turkey. What works best for me is breaking up the large task of NaNoWriMo into smaller goals. For example: “I will write 5 days a week and write 2,000 a day” or “Before I go to bed tonight I’ll hit 10,000.” NaNoWriMo is a marathon not a sprint. Achievable goals, however modest, will keep you moving forward toward the finish line.


Why are you committing to this writing goal? Because you love your story. Because you have something to say. Because you love the risk, the challenge, the work itself. There are as many answers as there are writers and answering the why question will help you find the motivation to succeed. If you’re struggling to answer the why question than NaNoWriMo with a major obstacle – like a newborn or high pressure job or general busyness – may not be for you. If you have an answer to the why, if you have a reason that drives you, then you have a motivating force, and thus a means of solving the when, where, and how.

We all have challenges. Many who attempt NaNoWriMo are tired/overworked/underpaid/at-wits-end-and-barely-keeping-it-together. That’s what inspires me about NaNoWriMo, jumping in with all the other crazy  hopefuls, all the other passionate writers who want to see their dream made reality.

Wherever you are in the strategizing process, please don’t panic. You’re going to rock this. I can tell you from experience that the hardest part is simply making the commitment to do it. If you’re looking for ideas, you’ll find plenty of help and resources. Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem! is a great place to start, and if you need help picking a topic check out Brooke’s post.

If you have a novel inside you waiting to get out, write it! You won’t regret it. Remember, if it’s important to you you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

Godspeed my writing friends.

Will you be joining Brooke and I for Nanowrimo this year? We’d love to hear about it.

The Way of the Zine: Lessons from the Literary Underground

The Way of the Zine: Lessons from the Literary Underground


Hello everyone, thanks for checking out my post about the great lit events happening this fall. As promised I’m here today to tell you all about the obscurely awesome literary genre known as zines.

I kicked off fall with my favorite literary festival: The Twin Cities Zine Fest. TCZF is an annual celebration of zine culture in the Twin Cities and this latest fest marked 12 years of awesomeness. It’s a place for local zinesters to show off their self-published works and for fans to expo, workshop, and hang out with fellow zine lovers.

But what is a Zine? I get that question a lot and to be truthful zines are not easily defined. At the fest conversation often turned to the nebulous nature of zines. Some fans place comics under the zine umbrella, some disagree. Others define zines as a printed blog and are met with outrage at this simplification.

The best way to understand zines is to get your hands on some. I discovered zines a few years back when I first visited Boneshaker Books. I urge you, dear reader, to go yourself because Boneshaker has zines in abundance (also it is a super cool place to hang in Minneapolis and the rumors of the bicycle book delivery service are true!)

At Boneshaker you will find the little publications known as zines. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and aesthetics. They are filled with rantings, doodlings, and explosive opinions. Sometimes high class design, sometimes low-class design. Created by artists, dreamers, and ordinary people who just want to make something or say something.

I was hooked as soon as I discovered these tiny booklets with their f*** you attitude. I loved the handmade charm and the range of writing styles, from inarticulate digressions to heartbreaking poetics to political opinions. Zines are radically democratic in that anyone can make one and disperse it. There is no middle man, no publishing house guarding the gates, and because the author answers to no one they can afford to be uncompromising.

Zines are outside the mainstream. It’s for the oddballs. It’s for the misfits. And that’s what Zine Fest was, a gathering of misfits; each bringing their art and their ideas to the table.

In this age of corporate media zines are independent, local, and DIY.  These ultimate do-it-yourselfers urge us to stop consuming that which is made for us and to create our own culture. Zinesters stand for a culture whose value isn’t stocks and markets, it’s connection and authenticity. They aren’t after celebrity. They are everyday, ordinary people, just like you and me. Everyday winners and losers, artists and dreamers. In this sad fallen world of corporate profits, zines are a lesson for all creative types…it’s about the work, not the money. The Twin Cities Zine Fest is an annual, passionate gathering of creators, and I left inspired to make something, just because I can, just because I have something to say.

Stay true to your art, dear writing buddies! Take a lesson from zine culture and write whatever the heck you want. Screw the mainstream. If you’re a zinester let me know because I’d love to get my hands on your work. Are you new to the world of zines and need a recommendation? All you have to do is ask!



What to Write for NaNoWriMo

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

Wow we are halfway through October!  That is just crazy – especially because it means…NaNoWriMo 2016 is almost here!

Hopefully all you plotters out there have been prepping your November project for months, and hopefully you pansters have been working on your projects too.  Or, you might be like me – coming to the realization that you need to get a move on if you are going to make NaNoWriMo 2016 happen.

I’ll be honest with you all.  After NaNoWriMo 2015 I did not think I would want to participate in 2016.  Last year, I picked a really bad project to hammer out in a month and because of that I didn’t have the greatest experience with NaNoWriMo.  I still won (because winning is important yo) but I hated what I wrote, and have been so overwhelmed by the concept of editing it that I have not looked at the draft one single time since finishing it last November.

I had a lot of excuses for avoiding NaNoWriMo this year.  I need to focus on editing my Moon Cursed series.  I’m not at a good place in my drafting cycle.  I’m going on vacation in November so it will be too hard.  But, at the end of the day, these excuses were all just that.  Excuses.  Despite my hesitation, and my experience last year, I still believe the challenge, community, message and adventure of writing a novel in a month is worth it for me.  

So, I am back on the bandwagon and have been brainstorming ideas for what novel I want to write.  Mostly, I’ve come up with stories I know I shouldn’t write, as well as a few that seem promising.  And because I want you to have a fantastic, successful, winning and satisfying NaNoWriMo experience I am going to share these thoughts with you – because you know, after participating in NaNoWriMo for one year I am a freakin’ expert.


Things you Shouldn’t Write:

Vague Ideas – Don’t think you can have a vague story concept and take it to the finish line during NaNoWriMo.  This is what I did last year and it was a disaster.  Yes, I wrote 50,000 words, but I actually wasted a lot of time and agony getting them on the page.  If I had developed a clearer picture or planned more it would have made November 2015 way better.

A story that needs a lot of research:  Unless you are a hardcore plotter and have already done all the research, picking a story that requires research such as historical fiction, will slow you down.  You won’t have the time to look up facts when you are cramming in an average of 1,667 words a day.  You’ll be much better off saving those types of stories for a different time.

Something too big:  50,000 words is a lot of words, but some stories need even more than that.  Unless you are up to the challenge of writing more than 50,000 words in one month or plan to use NaNoWriMo as a kick off for your project, you are going to be disappointed when come November 30th you are worn out, burnt out and only ¼ of the way through your story.

Something too Important:  If you have a story that means a lot to you, that has a really strong message, or that you’ve built up forever in your head NaNoWriMo probably isn’t the time to try and get that story on the page.  This is because you will want to edit as you go.  It will be hard to push through, writing garbage scenes for a story you really care about.  Not all novels can be written in a month, and that is ok.


Things you should write:

Something Different:  If you have been wanting to try out a new genre, perspective, or target age group in your writing NaNoWriMo is a perfect opportunity to experiment with such things.  It’s a short time commitment that won’t throw you off course if you end up hating what you try.

Something that plays to your strengths:  We all are good at different things as writers,  and we all have things that come naturally that we can write out really quickly.  Use those skills to your advantage.  If you are great at writing action and can slam out 2,000 words in thirty minutes pick a story with a lot of action scenes to help you reach your goal!

Something fun:  In case you haven’t caught on NaNoWriMo is all about speed.  It is much easier to write a light hearted, feel good, easy reading novel in a month than it is to write a complicated, metaphor laden, iambic pentameter driven, hope it wins the Pulitzer Prize, novel.  I am not saying the later can’t be done, but I believe you will have a much more enjoyable experience if you pick a less serious and more whimsical project to tackle in November.

Something You’ve been wanting to write:  We all have stories we can’t get out of our heads.  I have a lot of individual scene pieces that will keep me up at night as I dream about them.  NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to take those scenes without a home and finally put them on a page – even if it is for no other reason than getting them out of your head so you can focus more on other projects.

Short Stories:  If a single novel with 50,000 words seems intimidating – don’t forget that you can write short stories or novella’s too!  

A sequel:  Perhaps you already have book 1 of 7 written, you haven’t finished editing that yet, but you know what you want to happen in book 2.  NaNoWriMo is a great time to go for it.  You’ve already created the characters, world, and set the plot in motion which means half of the prep work is already done!

If you are still unsure about NaNoWriMo let me encourage you to take the plunge.  Step out of your comfort zone, prove to yourself that writing is your passion, and be brave enough to do the work it takes to make your dreams happen.

Let me know in the comments below what you are writing for NaNoWriMo 2016!  I also have an exclusive extra short scene I want to share with you.  It’s fun, sassy and came to me out of nowhere.  If you would like to read it e-mail us at and I will send you a copy.

Good Luck in November and  as always

Stay Amazing my friends!

Leaves are Falling and the Books are Calling

Leaves are Falling and the Books are Calling

autum-fall-indie-hipster-books-leafs-autumn-leaves-reading-cute-boots-5Ah…Fall in Minnesota! There’s a new chill in the air, a new crispness to the apples, and a new pumpkin-spice monstrosity everywhere you look, and I mean everywhere. I’ve seen yogurt, gum, hummus, and, I kid you not, dog treats. Don’t believe me? Look what I found at Trader Joe’s:

Yes, we all have our reasons to love the autumnal season. I’m not a fan of pumpkin-spice myself (or the ridiculous products it ends up in), but I do love fall, and in the Twin Cities fall is the prime time to check out local literary events. There are so many great events this month – it’s a literal (pun intended) extravaganza!

This smorgasbord of literary yumminess kicked off two weeks ago with the 12th Annual Twin Cities Zine Fest. It was a fantastic event and I’m so bummed that I didn’t post in time to get you folks involved. I’ve had a busy start to the fall season so I hope you’ll forgive me for the lapse. If you refuse to forgive me than I will have you know that I gave birth to my first child early September and if that doesn’t warrant a brief break from blogging then I don’t know what does. Luckily our amazing Brooke Stewart was keeping SS Press alive with her witty and inspirational posts. If you haven’t already read her thoughts on kicking a netflix addiction, you can find it here.

If you missed out on Zine Fest stay tuned for my next post. I’ll be covering the fest and giving you some insight into zines, the most lovable oddball of the literary world!

Without much further ado here’s what’s going on this fall in the Twin Cities literary community:

  • Kerri Miller of MPR is doing another round of Talking Volumes at the beautiful Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Tickets are still available to the Ann Patchett and Colson Whitehead talks on October 18th and November 3rd, respectively, but I’d act fast. I lucked out and scored tickets to Gloria Steinem after they were sold out. Thank goodness for the generous book lovers in my life! I was hoping to see Elizabeth Alexander on September 15th but I was too busy with my then five day old babe…luckily we can all see the interview here! I highly recommend her memoir The Light of the World.
  • Head over to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds October 7-9 for a shopping spree. Half Price Books is having their annual clearance event at the Grandstand and you will find some major deals. This is one of the Twin Cities biggest used books sales. Everything is $2 or less! Too good to be true I know. Details can be found here.
  • Since you’ll be at the Fairgrounds on October 8 for the used book sale simply stroll from the Grandstand to the Education Building where you will find the MCBA Fall ComiCON which boasts 33,000 sq. feet of comic goodness!
  • Ok, if you’re not yet sick of visiting the fairgrounds after this weekend come back October 14-15 for the Twin Cities Book Festival. Held in the Progress Center & Fine Arts Building the TC Book Fest is a lovely celebration of the Minnesota book community. Publishers, authors, and retailers will be present and it’s the perfect opportunity to discover new local books.
  • And my personal favorite date idea for the literary lover in your life…RAMSEY AFTER DARK. October 14th take that special someone to the Historic Ramsey House for a moonlit tour exploring the origins of the Victorian Gothic Romance Novel. Who doesn’t love a date that mixes romance with horror?  Sexy, am I right?
  • Last but certainly not least, NERDCON will be rocking out at the Minneapolis Convention Center October 13-15. The tickets are a little pricey at $100/each but since I like you guys I’m going to share the secret code to get $20 off: DFTBA. I am so excited for NERDCON this year! Signings, panels, interactive story art, workshops, live music, even themed yoga – NERDCON has it all. And some big names will be in attendance: John Green, Dessa, Rives, etc…You can see a full list of the celebs here.

Whew! That is a lot of events. As you can see fall in the Twin Cities is about so much more than pumpkin-spice…it’s about books! But who says you can’t mix the two? If you’re a pumpkin-spice devotee now you have some awesome events to enjoy while sipping your fav latte/mocha thingie.

Now that fall is here it is time to start thinking about NANOWRIMO. Brooke and I have started gearing up for the challenge and we’ll be sharing our projects and plans with you soon (although as you all know Brooke is more of a pantser). Do you have a novel idea ready to go for November? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

See you at the book fests!