November 2010 Archives

I am a Novelist

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Thanks to NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I have just written a novel. 50,330 words of fiction. I can call myself a novelist.*

I've wanted to write a book since I was a little girl reading them by the dozen. For years I've skirted around writing fiction. I've been a journalist, a features writer, a tech writer, a playwright, a tutorialist, a blogger - to varying degrees of intensity and success.

But writing something book-length eluded me until this month. It was a delightful challenge and I am very proud of myself for having completed a draft within 30 days - 26 days, actually, since I finished a bit earlier than the official deadline.

I had some happy surprises and discoveries while I spent the month writing.

Memories unlock themselves. My new novel is young adult story set in a high school. While visualising the action in the story, I remembered a lot of lost details from my own high school experience. And used them.

Characters come alive. After a couple thousand words, the characters were acting on their own. I only had to watch them and write down what they were doing and saying. This happened to me when I wrote a play, too, so I shouldn't have been too surprised. But I was delighted.

Continuity is tricky. I think I have a pretty good ability to hold details in my head, but am sure that there are things I've gotten wrong in my book. Inconsistencies like student council meets on Tuesday, yet I just wrote it was Thursday and here they are in a meeting. Hmmm. And did even Nick run for student council 20,000 words ago? Why is he in this meeting now?

Characters fight back. All the times I had "writer's block" it was because the characters didn't want to go in the direction I was trying to send them. Once I spoke out loud to my main character and negotiated a compromise, quickly ended the sticky scene, started a new chapter and writer's block was gone.

Coffee is necessary. My Inner Critic can be pretty loud, but if I give him a lot of coffee, he quiets down. Plus coffee makes my fingers go faster. Coffee is good.

Characters are unpredictable. Very often the characters did things I didn't anticipate. I'd start out writing a chapter about homework and suddenly someone got suspended. These twists were never planned and always moved the plot forward in interesting ways. I like those surprises.

Friends want to read this. At least half a dozen people have asked me if they can read it. That is the scariest part of the process! Though I probably won't publish it in physical form, after some editing, I will make a pretty PDF for you to read on you iPad or Kindle.

* The Inner Critic would like to disagree: I am not a Novelist because the novel it isn't finished yet. It is only a draft and even when it is finished it probably isn't worth reading, and even if it is good the chances of it getting published are about .01%. I think I need to give the Inner Critic some coffee now.

Consiousness, Authenticity, and Forgiveness


I’ve been involved in a deep-down personal struggle recently.

Over the past two years, I learned a lot about my spiritual being. I became more conscious. I shed a lot of my old, negative beliefs and replaced them with thoughts that made me happier, less judgmental of others and myself, and more aware of my place in the world. I found this happy path by cobbling together concepts from several sources: the idea of presence from Eckhart Tolle, meditations from Osho, bits and bobs from the Judeo-Christian traditions, discussions with friends, yoga techniques, and reincarnation theories. This conglomeration probably makes no sense to anyone else, but it suited me.

This summer was a test of that personal growth.

I collaborated with some fantastic people on projects with great expectations, creative brilliance, long hours, major financial commitments, and shifting deadlines. It was fast-paced, challenging, and fun from June through October. I learned new things and pushed my boundaries. Many of my skills and talents were used to their maximum and that felt really powerful. But at the same time, I often felt out of my element and socially awkward as I tried to keep up with the lifestyle of my new colleagues. I was brought into the fold, but I didn’t really fit.

Life got stressful. I took on too much responsibility. Help was not available as everyone else was stretched to his or her limits, too. Again and again, I called upon my beliefs to help me be aware of what was happening and to get me through.

And I failed.

The projects came off quite well for the most part, but afterward a key collaborator severed ties to me due to my personal shortcomings and negative energy, turning tail on our shared adventures and cutting me off from a handful of our mutual friends and activities.

I’ve spent the past six weeks in a state of betrayal, anger, and hurt.

I cried for days. I lied to friends to save face. I dwelled on the past, blamed myself for everything, and sat around in a stupor trying to figure out what to do. I ate a lot of chocolate for breakfast. Of course the right thing to do lies in my fundamental beliefs: I must be present, forgiving, and compassionate. Most of all, I need to be authentic and true to myself.

Authenticity is a lot of what got me into this trouble. I should have known when I felt uncomfortable trying to fit in with people that I wasn’t being true to myself. Maybe I did realise on some level, but the thrill of being included in that glamorous world and the fruitfulness of our projects led me astray. When my authentic self finally reappeared it was unwelcome in that world.

From today forward, I begin anew.

I forgive myself and the person who hurt me. I recommit to presence and compassion. And I pledge to honor my authentic being. I love me!

Daidogei 2010

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Teatoro Pavana's giraffes towered over the crowded street.

Daidogei World Cup in Shizuoka gathered 96 street performers together for four days of performances on street and stage.

There was so much to see and so much to be inspired by! Tod & I stayed the night on Saturday so we could take in two days' worth of the schedule, but we still only covered a quarter of the performers. We could easily have been there all four days.

It's possible to simply wander the town and stop by all 36 of the venues to see performers in every category from world-class invitees to local clowns. Or you can get tickets to showcase stage shows where half a dozen acts perform. We did both and thanks to strangers, here are some videos!

Gypsy Gomez, hula hoop and balance; Anastasini Brothers, acrobats; Miss KuriKuri, roue cyr; Les Vitamins, acrobats.

My favorite act was the first one we came across, Cru Cru Cirque. We saw a crowd and wandered over. Stood on tiptoe on the very edge of a park bench with half a dozen old men; Tod had one foot on the bench and steadied himself on a pole. People passed under his arm trying to find spots closer in. Despite our precarious perch, we watch the show with great delight - juggling, acrobatic, theatre, dance and fire. Everything to love and shirtless Japanese boys, too.

Kana and me after her act.

And I finally got to see my hooping friend, Kana, perform. This is her 6th year at Daidogei! She does a mix of hooping, balance, and dance all in super kawaii-style. Hers was the only show where the old men with cameras sat in the front row and the kids had to settle for places further back. Her true fans knew the act forward and backward!

I loved seeing so many different kinds of performers all at once. I learned a lot for my future hooping and circus-inspired acts.

  • Acts of two or more people never slow down.
  • Timing actions to music is exciting keeps the audience rapt.
  • Well-practiced skill is important but flubs can be covered with stage presence.
  • Patter is either important or unnecessary.
  • Performers on stage together must interact with intention towards a conclusion.
  • A sincere smile is engaging.
  • Wooden or unsmiling performers are nasty.
  • Repeating the same gag too many times makes the act flat and boring.
  • Pausing for applause is good.
  • Pausing to fiddle with props or music isn't so good.
  • Audience involvement and engagement is crucial, especially if you want money in your hat.
  • A big finish is easy for the audience to understand. Music stops, show over.
  • When you have a crowd around you, doing things on the ground gyps the people standing in the back.
  • Acrobatics always thrill me. I need to learn some.
  • There is a lot of crossover among skills and a unique take on yours is smart.
  • Exercise balls make brilliant props.
  • Poi moves can be done with beads, kendama, hoops, and almost two of anything...

World Hoop Day Dance 2010


Here's the final result of the World Hoop Day dance project - the global performances compiled into one video.

I am so proud of all these hoopers. Look at how many people danced! 17 locations in six countries filmed their performance and sent it it. Each dancer added his or her own flair and dance style to the routine and it turned out so beautifully in every single location. Solo dancers, small, medium and large groups participated. And I know there were lots of people who learned the dance and didn't film it. i hope they'll be brave next year.

Thank you all so much for your support of this wild whim of an idea. It's been such a success that I am excited to do it next year. In fact, I woke up this morning to an idea of how to edit hundreds of submissions together. So get ready for 11/11/11.

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