Tag Archives: arts and crafts

A Day in the Life of a Wannabe Writer … or, NaNo Ate My Brain

Standard

Yes, I am procrastinating. I am also, by writing down whatever random thoughts happen to free-associate within my wrinkled brain, getting those old creative juices flowing in preparation for doing some serious work on The Novel. (Note: wrinkles are widely regarded as desirable in a brain.)

It occurs to me that the novel-writing process is a bit like knitting a sweater. And when I say that I am referring very specifically to the sweater (aka “jersey”, because this happened in South Africa) I knitted attempted to knit when I was in seventh grade (aka Standard Five, because that’s what we called it 44 years ago … Good grief, how did that happen? That was in Historical Times, y’all!)

Back then, Home Economics (aka Domestic Science) was compulsory for all girls. We learned essential skills like how to bathe a baby, sew a layette, maintain a sewing machine, set a table for a formal dinner, and prepare the simpler elements of such a dinner.

I totally sucked at all of it. I desperately wanted to be with the boys, learning woodwork and car maintenance, but back in the early Seventies in South Africa that was absolutely not an option. (I need to explain this to Himself. He is regularly baffled by my inability to remember the significance of fluids vis-a-vis a vehicle engine. I must tell him that it’s Not My Fault! I wanted to learn that stuff, but the system was against me!)

So anyway, one of our projects was to knit a sweater jersey. I chose the prettiest shade of soft, pale pink wool, and my mother cast on for me (yeah, I know, but good parenting is about compromise), and at the end of the term in which we “learned to knit” she sent me to stay with my grandmother, who kept me knitting out on the stoep while we listened to the radio. For hour upon hour. Because there was a deadline, you see – I had to be able to wear the bloody thing in time for my first Domestic Science class of the next term.

This might have been what I was aiming for.  (Pic lifted from LL Bean website)

This might have been what I was aiming for.
(Pic lifted from LL Bean website)

I don’t remember how long the visit lasted, but I suspect my granny finally gave up and sent me home. Or maybe the month-long July (winter!) school vacation holiday ended. All I really remember is that after approximately seven years of knitting and unraveling and reknitting, it was the night before the Fashion Show, when all the girls in my Domestic Science class were to model their jerseys.

I had maybe six inches of used-to-be-pink-but-now-badly-needs-a-wash knitted matter … which my mother cast off and stitched into place around a wooden coat-hanger, while I made two very artistic and beautiful pompoms to attach below the hook.

Coat hanger cover

Like the one second from the bottom, only with grime and pompoms. (Pic found on Pinterest. Can you believe these are still a Thing???)

Hey – if I’d been allowed to make a birdhouse like the boys, I would totally have rocked it!

Anyway, that’s kind of how this whole NaNo thing has been going for me. I’m progressing stits and farts, as my dear Marmeee has been known to say in less demure moments. Take today.

First off, Himself woke at some non-existent hour and needed to read himself back to sleep. While he was doing this, various dogs needed out. Himself being contentedly oblivious to their need, I stumbled out of bed to take care of them. I don’t open my eyes when I do this, being convinced that as long as my eyes are shut I am still experiencing shut-eye regardless of what the rest of my body is doing, and can therefore hope to be reasonably functional when daylight strikes. Unfortunately, because my eyes were shut, I failed to notice that all the dogs had come back in while I sat waiting for them, shivering gently and planning Himself’s demise.

Eventually pried eyes open and wandered through the house, counting dogs. After counting to six three times I was able to believe that everyone was safe inside and not in any imminent danger of becoming a pupsicle, so I climbed back into bed, just as Himself turned his light off and snuggled, still contentedly, under the covers.

By now I was wide awake and too pissed to sleep, so I flipped open my laptop and churned out about 600 words of the most ghastly drivel, before deciding that “Henrietta Gurdy’s Lost and Found” was the single most boring, pointless book ever not to be written, and pulled a pillow over my face went back to sleep.

Woke late, and spent the day gnashing my teeth over my hopeless future as a writer-to-be-taken-seriously.

Decided to take myself and my laptop off to Barnes and Noble and immerse myself in latte fumes and works of brilliance and stay there until I had figured out what was wrong with the damn book and fixed it.

Went out to feed the chickens before leaving, and noticed that one hen was sick. Spent 25 minutes trying to catch her. Tottered into the house clutching her, faintly clucking, to my heaving bosom with one hand, while fending the dogs off with the other, just as Himself headed through the door to pick up something or other he found on Craigslist.

Said, “Screw this,” and dumped chicken inside large dog crate in bedroom, with food and water and blanket slung over the top. So fine, our bedroom now smells like a chicken. Read my lips: I Do Not Care!

Realized that, with Himself gone, (a) the house is quiet, and (b) there is no one here to comment on my decision to fuel my creative urge with the whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia I found in the freezer. (Come on, those tubs are small!) Plus it was getting dark. And it’s friggin’ cold. And anyway, somehow in the course of all the frothing and fuming I’d been doing – or maybe it was A Gift From The Chicken – I’d figured out what I wanted to do about Henrietta Gurdy. So I got myself all set up in a corner of the living room…

Aaand ... GO!

Aaand … GO!

… and I sat down and wrote this blog post.

I can always rely on Argos for help...

I can always rely on Argos for help…

And then Himself came home and started making weird beeping noises on his computer … and pretty soon the dogs will want to be fed.

I wonder whether I can count these words toward my NaNo tally? Because I have only 10,067 down, guys, and only 12 days in which to churn out the balance of the 50,000!

Oh well. At least I know how to fix the darn thing now. So there’s that.

Holly Jolly Halloween

Standard

Halloween was never a big deal for me, growing up in South Africa. Of course I knew about it, as a dedicated reader of both Ray Bradbury and Peanuts, but it wasn’t anything we celebrated. Then, around about the time the Girl Child hit her teens it became a Thing for older kids, who would go out all done up in blood spatters and ghoulishness (but still, of course, unnervingly sexy) and hang out at the local malls, and frankly that was a scary evening for parents. Disney princesses and plastic pumpkins full of treats didn’t feature; it was a dark celebration.

So anyway, I have now lived through 16 Smalltown USA Halloweens, and I feel ready to share a relevant personal experience, and since I didn’t have an actual Halloween experience worth sharing, at first I thought I’d write about a Traumatic Childhood Fancy Dress Memory.

First off, it’s important to stress that my parents are, and were, good people who didn’t torment me more than they absolutely had to. But … they were the kind of parents who thought that if your chubby, introverted, bespectacled kid was taking part in a church youth group fancy dress party, it made more sense to dress her up as a literary-minded garden pest (“Ha ha! You’ll be cute – you’ll see; you’ll make people laugh and everyone will think it’s a clever idea!”) than as, say, a princess or Little Bo Peep like the boring other girls. So they rolled me up in a luridly yellow bedspread, tied it on with string, and shoved a book in my hands.

Like this, but more dorky, and involving a fair amount of string.

Like this, but less tailored, more dorky, and involving a fair amount of string. And very, very yellow.

Each kid paraded in turn across the stage while everyone guessed who they were, and there were prizes but I have no idea how they were awarded. I didn’t get one, and I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was too busy Actively Ignoring the giggling princesses and sniggering boys. Suddenly it was my turn to cross the stage. Unfortunately, in the interests of verisimilitude, my parents had tied the string all the way round my body right down to my ankles. Parading was not an option. I hobbled to the stage, someone heaved me up onto it, and I rolled around and tried to breathe until the youth pastor hauled me to my feet. At that point the uppermost string started coming undone, and the costume threatened to collapse around my (string-secured) ankles. (I forgot to mention that my arms were tied inside the yellow bedspread, with only my hands sticking out to hold the book. Because, you know, worms don’t have arms. So holding myself together was a challenge that made any parading across the stage completely out of the question.) Mercifully someone in the audience shouted, “She’s a bookworm!” before I was even fully vertical, and the pastor rolled me to the edge of the stage and they heaved me back down and let me hobble off into the outer darkness.

So that’s my Halloween horror story (even though it didn’t technically happen at Halloween, as far as I know), and I thought it would be the best I could come up with for this post. But then this afternoon I was sitting in the Barnes & Noble coffee shop with a friend, and I got THIS post from Himself:

Supper tonite !!!

Supper tonite !!!

At first I thought one of the hens had kicked the bucket and he was being funny, but no, a cock pheasant had foolishly planted itself in a tree out back and stayed there while Himself scurried off to fetch a shotgun.

Here’s another picture:

Looks almost medieval!

Looks almost medieval!

Is it just me, or is it just a tad gruesome to have a dead bird lying next to the kitchen sink on Halloween? Whatever … we went out for Chinese instead, and tomorrow is the NaNo kick-off party, but I expect we’ll be doing fabulous things involving wine and a crockpot and my first wild pheasant on Sunday.

In the meantime, I couldn’t waste such a fabulous opportunity to dress up. THIS Halloween, I’m Minnehaha.

Fine feathers

Fine feathers

And now it’s your turn! Do you torture your children by using them to demonstrate your creative sense of humor? What kind of text messages do your loved ones usually send you? Do you have any good pheasant recipes? Talk to me!