Saturday, December 5, 2009

Completion of NaNoWriMo 2009: Finding Methuselah

As I had indicated in several previous blog posts, I participated in National Novel Writing Month this year. It's an event where people try to start and finish the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. At around noon on November 30th, I completed my goal and reach 50,197 words! It was a lot of work and I am very proud of myself. My NaNoWriMo page is here.

Some other interesting 2009 NaNoWriMo stats:
- There were 167,150 participants, up 40% from 2008's total of 119,301.
- There were 32,173 winners, i.e. 19.2% of the participants reached 50,000 words.
- There were a total of 2,427,190,537 words written.

Some people asked for more information about my story, so I wanted to provide it.
- Synopsis
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 26

Finding Methuselah: Synopsis

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

Below is the synopsis for Finding Methuselah. Beware, the last sentence is super cheesy!

Alan and Susan have two children, a son, ten-year-old Jace, and a daughter, seven-year-old Sarah. The family lives in Chicago and leads a very normal and happy life. Their lives get shaken up when Jace is diagnosed with leukemia. Everyone handles it differently but surprisingly, Jace handles it the best. Susan is distraught at the possibility of losing her son. Alan's outlook is, “get the treatment, put it behind us, move on with our lives.” As for Sarah, if her brother is handling it well, she follows suit. Jace undergoes chemotherapy and the cancer goes into remission.

Months later, during a routine screening, signs of the cancer appear again and it has spread to numerous places throughout his body. After a few more tests, the doctors determine that even aggressive treatment would only slow the cancer down, at best. Jace opts to forgo any treatment and to live the remaining time he has without the suffering he went through during his first rounds of chemo. Susan slowly accepts her son's decision and his inevitable demise, but Alan doesn't. He's angry that things didn't work out and he feels that his son is giving up.

The next few months are spent with the family spending a lot of time together, enjoying each others company, and enjoying life. Jace feels okay most of the time, but he feels weaker as time goes on. One day he tells his parents things he's been reading about and makes a request. He explains how a certain species of tree, bristlecone pines, are the oldest living things on Earth and one specific tree, named Methuselah, is considered to be the oldest living life form on the planet at nearly five thousand years old. His request is to travel to Inyo National Forest in California and find the tree. It might not be easy though – Methuselah's whereabouts are not made public to protect it.

His parents okay the trip and Jace suggests that only he and his dad go. Susan reluctantly agrees, hoping that the time together will help Alan accept their son's fate. The two travel to California and set out on a journey to fulfill a dying boy's last wish and ease a father's fears of the future.

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

Finding Methuselah: Chapter 10

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

This was an interesting chapter to write. It's the chapter where the family finds out that Jace's cancer is back. I had already written a chapter that took place inside of a doctor's office and didn't want to do another one. What I came up with was to highlight some of the normal families in their neighborhood, how things aren't perfect, but they're normal. And then from there, it moves on to Jace's family, which was a normal family who has now run into this bad time, but from the neighborhood view, it might not even be known. It's told kind from a kind of pulled-back-looking-down point of view.

I like the chapter and I like the different feel it has, but I'm just not sure that it works with the rest of the story.

Oh, and upon reread, I noticed some tense issues, I seem to switch tenses throughout the chapter. And there are some awkward sentences. So keep in mind it's a first draft that's been reread once to fix glaring mistakes.

Chapter 10 – Regression

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

Finding Methuselah: Chapter 12

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

This chapter takes place after Jace has explained to his parents that he does not want anymore chemotherapy. It's the first of several chapters that deals with the family just trying to find some normalcy in their lives. I really like the playfulness of most of the chapter. I enjoy writing playful scenes and they're the ones I enjoy reading the most after I've finished them. I had forgotten some of the details of this chapter and it made me smile while reading it. The aquarium visit that gets mentioned happened in a previous chapter.

Chapter 12 – Living

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

Finding Methuselah: Chapter 26

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

This chapter takes places after Alan, Jace, and a forest ranger named Thomas have made it to Methuselah. It's after dark and Alan and Thomas hike back to the truck to get sleeping bags to sleep out. Jace is left alone for awhile.

While reading this chapter all the way through for the first time after writing it, I wondered if it was too sugary. I would have to read it within the context of the whole story, I think. In any case, this is the last chapter of the book. It's only an excerpt, about half of the chapter – I can't give it all away!

Chapter 26 – Sleeping in the Shadow of Infinity

Click here to go back to read more about Finding Methuselah.

Monday, November 23, 2009

That Little Stinker!

The kids had their dance recitals tonight and they did an excellent job on stage!

Finn has us absolutely SHOCKED! This was Finn's first recital and he is in the First Steps dance class through River Falls Parks & Rec. He got up on stage and did all of his dances like a pro. By watching him on stage, you wouldn't believe I was telling the truth when I say that he refused to go on stage for rehearsal and for the majority of the dance classes, Torey or I had to be out there dancing with him. Nice.

As always, Julia was a beautiful princess dancing on stage with her Let's Dance 2 class. She chose to wear the rainbow tutu she bought in Oregon over the summer. She looked lovely!

My favorite part of the recitals is seeing the kids up on stage with the biggest smiles ever on their faces. It definitely helps a person to let go of the stress of their day and relax in the presence of the simple pleasures in a child's life.


Thank you, Miss Jennifer! We are grateful for your dedication to the children of River Falls. You bring happiness to these families each and every week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update 2

Everyday this week I've wanted to update the blog with how I'm doing and some basic info about the story and everyday I'm too tired and just want to go to bed. Tonight isn't any different, but I thought I would just throw something together quick otherwise I may never get around to making an update.

Things have gone well so far. There have been some bumps and some questioning of things on my part, but I haven't faltered in finishing my daily goals. So far I'm about 600 words ahead of schedule and I hope I can increase that number by the end of the weekend.

The title of my work in progress is, Finding Methuselah.

You can follow my progress here:
It shows how many words I have so far. I update it nightly after I finish writing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update 1 and Halloween

In the previous post I explained about the writing contest I'm attempting. I thought I would provide some more insights. I've always felt strongly that I would not attempt any large piece of fiction until I had a lot of finished short stories under my belt. I still feel that that is the right way to do it, but one of the biggest things I struggle with is motivation. I do well when there is some sort of outside motivation. I figured if I signed up and took this endeavor seriously, it would lend itself well to a solid foundation of a good writing habit.

Today I wrote chapter 1. My thought was that if the story broke down into 30ish chapters, I could write one a day. Well I was a little disappointed when I finished the first one and only had 1350 words. Do I add more to reach my 1700 goal for the day or move on to the next chapter? I decided to start the next chapter and I was glad I did. The words came out much faster and chapter 2 was much more fun than chapter 1. It wasn't long before I reached over 2000 words for my first day. Not bad.

The website for NaNoWrMo lets you update your progress and share it with others. It's really slow right now, so I can't update mine, but as soon as I can, I'll also share a link that anyone can go to and see my progress.

The kids had a good time trick-or-treating last night. Julia was a princess and Finn was Bob the Builder. It was cold outside and so the kids had to have some extra clothes on underneath their costumes. Finn thought it was pretty funny that he had a pair of feety pajamas under his costume. While we were getting ready we kept getting kids coming to door, so that slowed us down a bit. We all had a good time and after a few houses of seeing Julia walk up to the door and yell "trick or treat!", Finn got the hang of it and had no problem joining right in. There were a few scary houses that the kids wanted to skip, so we did. At one of them Julia said, "I'm not going to go to that one until I'm a teenager!"

After we got back, the kids dumped out the goodies on the table and selected a few things to sample. Amanda and I also sampled our fair share too.

The morning after the holiday, the people at the grocery store were giving away their extra Halloween balloons. The kids thought that was the bees knees!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is 50,000 a lot?

I've decided to participate in a contest. If you sign up and complete the goal you win. There are no prizes, just the self satisfaction of completion. The contest is National Novel Writing Month. Write a 50,000 word novel over the course of 30 days. You start on November 1st and must be completed by November 30th to win. The idea is to get people who wouldn't normally attempt something as grand as a novel to give it a shot. It's not about finishing with something publishable, but to produce a 50,000 word manuscript to be able to continue to work with.

I heard about this contest two days ago and at first I didn't even consider trying it. Then I realized that writing 1,700 words a day would accomplish the goal. And while 50,000 words sounded impossible, 1,700 didn't. "Hmmm..." is what my thoughts changed into. Then I realized how much of my free time it would take up (nearly all) and how I would have to be disciplined enough if I expected to do well and my, "Hmmm..." turned into, "Maybe not...". On Thursday night I asked Mandy what she thought of the idea. I was expecting (and a small part of me was hoping) that she wouldn't like the idea of me spending that much time with something like this, but she thought it was a neat idea. Yay for supportive people!

So my plan is to write two hours a night during the week and get close to 1,700 words a night. Then on weekends write more, like 2,000+ words to make up for any slack during the week. Thanksgiving falls at the end of the month, so that could be tough.

For the record, I'll consider this a success if I either get to the 50,000 words or if I finish telling my story, no matter how short of the goal I am. Part of me thinks that my story just won't be long enough, but I won't know til I give it a shot. I plan on having updates here every few days and I'll share some more about the story and my progress.

Ok, on to the pictures!
Julia took a lot of pictures with her little camera. The quality is low, but here are some of the interesting ones.

When Julia gathers a whole mess of toys, blankets, books, and anything else she can find, she calls it her nest. When Finn does it, he calls it his jungle. Here's a jungle that Finn made.

The guys of family hanging out.

The children are legoing to their heart's content!

Here's Finn helping out with supper.

Rather than dressing up in costumes, Julia's school had wacky hair day. Finn wanted in on the action too.

Julia's pout with her haircut is faked. She was super-excited about it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Squeezing in one for the month

After a flurry of posts recounting our trip to Portland, I think I've been blogged out these past six weeks. But even though I wasn't keeping up with it here, things were still happening.

Julia lost her first tooth! There's a new one growing in and a few more are loose too.

Julia turned five! She got to celebrate in several different ways:
With her family and a cake that she decorated herself.

With friends at a party at our house.

And with grandparents hundreds of miles away by utilizing some fun technology.

Julia started kindergarten!

It isn't all about Julia! though, sometimes things happen with Finn too. Like when Amanda has to work late and I get, the pleasure of spending the evening with the kids. Their palates aren't sophisticated enough yet to know how crappy TV dinners are.

When their parents were unresponsive to their cries of hunger, the children took it upon themselves to snackify themselves with fortune cookies that they found in the cupboard. I'm sure I asked Julia what her pile of fortunes said and I'm sure she said, "Dad. You know I can't read yet."

Finn loves to decorate himself in stickers!

Finn's new Cookie Monster jacket!

Finn lounging and looking at Dora books!

I'll leave you with a picture I took of a honey bee collecting pollen in our garden. Check out the full pollen basket! Luckily she didn't mind me being all up in her buzziness.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Portland 2009 - Addendum: What about Finn?

While Mandy, Julia, and I were out gallivanting around the west coast, what the heck was Finn up to? I'm sure this was on everyone's mind, so let's see what the answer is.

He stayed with Mandy's parents the first few days. He paid a visit to some relatives and their pets. Finn-sized dogs Maggie and Sammie were fun for him to hang out with.

A zoo animal is more of a community pet, but they're fun to be around too.

And you gotta take some time to slide, slide, slide!

And sometimes when you help take care of a friendly animal... get something wonderful in return.

The last few days of his family's absence were spent with my parents. Here are Grandpa Dayton and Finn stretching out on the floor.

And then...Finn attack!

Grandma Colleen is a good book reader.

And if she doesn't do it right, Finn'll head lock her til she does!

Upon having his family all back together, Finn called out, "Check it out people, Grandpa Dayton doubles as a pack animal!" (And apparently the new hip is working out just fine!)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Portland 2009 - Part Four

The final installment...

On Monday we went to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It had a lot of great hands-on exhibits for kids and Julia liked it (and so did the other three of us). The omnimax movie that we saw was a bit much for Julia but she enjoyed the show at the planetarium.

The parents got in on some of the action too!

After the museum we went and had an awesome late afternoon lunch at a Lebanese restaurant.

Our flight left later in the afternoon so we had some time to squeeze in one more activity on Tuesday morning. We decided to check out the International Rose Test Garden. The gardens are located on 4.5 acres of land with downtown Portland behind them in the distance. They are used to plant new varieties of roses to see how they turn out. The successful ones go on to be put on the market and the unsuccessful ones are destroyed.

I followed some honeybees around for awhile trying to get some good pictures of them in the roses.

I came to Oregon a few years ago for Ember's graduation. When I got home, I was very disappointed when I realized that out of all the pictures I had taken, none were of her and me together. I made sure that didn't happen this time!

Check this link to see more pictures: