Back when we were living in Auckland last January, I had a webpage open on my laptop. My finger was poised above my touchpad, nearly ready to click. The button the little white finger on my screen hovered over read: “Click here if you accept our offer of admission for the three years of hell that is nursing school” or something like that.
Just then, I saw a new email had arrived. I hesitated. I clicked over to my Gmail tab to read the message. It was from my friend, Michael Robertson. He had sent it to me and another cruising friend, Behan Gifford. In it, Michael wrote he had overdosed on chocolate covered espresso beans the night before during his watch. While he had since recovered, one of the delusional thoughts that had entered his brain the previous night remained when morning finally arrived. He explained his wild-haired idea to us as best he could. Did we think we could do it?
I promptly forgot about clicking that button for nursing school. I finally admitted to myself that while it will likely not bring fame, or money, but rather back spasms, tears, and frustration, this was the sign I was looking for. That I should do what I’ve always wanted, which is just to write stuff for other people to read and hopefully change something tiny about the world. Because while at the end of a full day of writing my wrists are kinked and my brain is sore, looking at those words on the page brings such personal fulfillment and joy. And then utter defeat, because they all suck and will need to be changed the next day.
Behan nominated me to answer a few questions for a writer’s blog tour that’s going around. I won’t nominate anyone else, because I don’t want to stress anyone out, but if you want to answer the questions on your own blog, do let me know and I’ll add a link.
What am I currently working on?
The project Michael envisioned while high on espresso beans is quickly coming to fruition: the three of us are coauthoring a book we’re calling Voyaging With Kids, a Guide to Family Life Afloat. It’s the book we all wished we’d had when we first cast off years ago. The book will be published by L&L Pardey Books when it’s completed. Our mission is to draft a guide as complete and up-to-date with as many differing viewpoints as possible with all the aspects of sail or power cruising with kids we can think of: from choosing a boat, homeschooling, laundry, health care, babies, teens, relationship issues, swallowing the anchor, and much more.
While this project is quickly hurtling towards deadline, I’ve also decided to write a novel as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s like the marathon of the writing world. What seems to be developing before my bleary eyes is a middle grade (for 9-12s) fiction book. It involves a sailboat and a tropical island and cute boys, natch. I honestly have no idea what will come of these particular words, but I am having a hoot writing them down. I’ve also learned what it feels like to sit down and write when I swear I have nothing to say because in order to “win” NaNoWriMo (i.e. get 50K words down by November 30th) I have to average 1,667 words a day. I’ve discovered that once I sit down, fingers poised over the keyboard, a story clue will pop out of nowhere in an hour or two. I’ll start typing then and be off and away in my own invented world where I have very little control over my imaginary people for a few hours. It’s really, really fun.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
Since I’m not really sure what my genre is, I have no idea. I like to keep it real, I like to tell stories, I like to make people feel like they are not alone. But that’s not all that different from other writers, is it? I’m still discovering what my genre is, but while I’m enjoying my non-fiction and various freelance writing projects, I’ve always been a lover of fiction and have a strong feeling that’s where I’m going to spend my writing time in the future. Maybe.
So here’s why I decided to do NaNoWriMo at the last minute this year: Leah, at nearly 9, is having a world of trouble finding books that she likes. She’s a voracious reader, but she hates books about “stupid” girls like you find in “Dork Diaries,” and “stupid pony books” [she also hates being reminded that she was a pony from the ages of 4 to 5.] Her favorite characters are Coraline from “Coraline” and Violet from “A Series of Unfortunate Events” but she really prefers humor and adventure, over the horror-for-children genre that seems to be popular. But check out this list of the most popular middle grade books: how many of those feature strong pre-teen girl characters? After struggling to find books featuring likeable, strong girls at her 7th-grade reading level but 9-year-old maturity, I thought what the heck? I’ll write a book for Leah. I’m not sure I’m succeeding at that, but I’m definitely learning a lot about writing in the process.
Voyaging With Kids follows a similar reasoning: the cruising world needs it, it will help people, we want to write it, so off we go. I’m loving writing this book too, except it makes me want to pack my swimsuit and jandals in a bag and fly back to my lonely boat. (But I just double-checked my piggy bank. Still empty except for a few paʻanga rolling around in there.)
How does my writing process work?
I sit down in a chair and I type on my laptop. Sometimes I just stay in bed in my jammies, or sit on the couch with my feet up on a bean bag. It’s a hard life. I’m drinking a lot of coffee lately (but maybe that’s because it’s dark by 4:30?)
Even if I manage to cobble down some notes or an outline, what I usually write is totally different. I don’t use notebooks. I’ve tried. I’ve got stacks of empty notebooks, both pretty and plain. Instead, I use Evernote since I can access notes on my phone and any computer I’m using. For coauthoring, we are using Word and Dropbox. For my fiction projects, I’m using Scrivener; it’s an amazing program for organizing all the bits and pieces that come out of thin air and maybe even into your brain someday.