Monthly Archives: October 2016
Yesterday, I received some shocking news that a woman, Nicki Alexopoulos, who had been teacher, mentor, and friend to me was shot and killed by her own son who then shot another family friend (now in hospital recovering from multiple gunshots) who’d been visiting before turning the gun on himself.
There is not a word for how horrific this information was to me and to everyone who ever knew her.
As Anne Lamott said so eloquently, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”
No one embodied that better than Nicki.
She was in the process of writing about her own pain and heartbreak as a survivor of domestic violence, and in telling her story, she was breathtakingly honest.
But when I think of Nicki, I have nothing but warmth in the memory. I know I am not alone in that.
I’m a writer now, and I believe she is in large part responsible for my willingness to follow that dream.
In English class, she taught me the importance of research and citation. She taught me to think critically. She trained me to look at literature with empathy and to try to understand the actions of people who are nothing like myself. She had high standards and made us all accountable. Yet she was one of the most understanding and kindhearted people I’ve ever known.
Nicki’s lessons weren’t solely about the subject, however. Just as literature itself is an examination of the human condition, her lessons often gave me just as much information about how to be a strong independent human being as they did about the work we were studying.
She taught me to listen to my own voice, to question everything, not to flinch in the face of things that are painful or hard to examine, to speak my truth even if other people didn’t agree, to be discerning and thoughtful and honest in my writing and in my life. She taught me that it’s okay to be different. In fact, difference is strength.
I think she also knew that I had a strong drive for perfection, one that could be detrimental if I let it control me. She showed me the importance of celebrating my accomplishments, but also celebrating every step that lead to it.
This afternoon as I contemplated the enormity of the impact she had on my life, I came upon this video by happenstance, and it really spoke to me in relation to her as well.
These words struck me hardest.
“The whole point of dancing is the dance…We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end. And the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.” – Alan Watts
Truly, while the tragedy of her death…the way she died…is shocking in the extreme, I was reminded that her life wasn’t about how she died. It was about how she LIVED.
Nicki’s life was a dance, and she invited everyone to get up and take part.
The best way that I can see to process the loss of her is to celebrate what she gave to so many people, year after year.
And so, Nicki, I’m going to dance.
I’m going to do the things I told you I was going to do back when I was a dorky thirteen year old afraid of my own voice. I’m going to be the person you showed me was possible. And in doing so, I celebrate you and the gifts you gave me. I’m going to live a life I think you would be proud of helping shape.
I am so grateful I had the chance to tell you what you meant to me. I only wish I could tell you all over again. Thank you. The dance you started will continue all my life.
Though I’ve been writing for the last year, my blogging has fallen off. I’m going to be using it over the next month as a way to stave off my urge to use social media throughout the day. I’ll be saving up the the things I want to say to put into one long post, rather than doing fifteen short ones scattered throughout the day. I’ll just make notes of them as they come to me, rather than getting on Twitter or Facebook which turns a five second post into a forty five minute scan of cat videos and cute baby pics and TV show spoilers.
I spent a couple of days last week setting up a table so I can work away from online distraction, and so far, it’s proved to be very productive. NaNoWriMo will really put my plan to the test. Wish me luck!
My office has become a really comfortable space, and I truly love my ever-growing library. When I moved back from Saint Louis last spring, I had twenty eight big paper boxes full of books (the equivalent of about 5000 volumes), and at last I have all of the books put in order. There is even room for my collection to grow, which I haven’t had in…well…ever. I’ve always had bookshelves that were overflowing. This is a new era in my life. Eventually, I plan to repurpose my garage into a giant office (This room is the smallest of the guestrooms in the house.), but that change is at least a year away, so in the meantime, I’m making this space as functional and useful as possible.
There’s a little spaceheater that looks like a fireplace, and I’m looking forward to keeping this room cozy throughout the long winter days and nights.
In order to keep myself on task, I’ve set up a whiteboard near the door, and I’m going to keep track of my word counts throughout NaNoWriMo. My hope is to finish the last of the additions to Book One by the end of October, then spend November completing Book Two and setting to work on Book Three. In a perfect world, with no distractions or problems, all three novels in the series would be completed by the end of December.
In addition, I’ve begun using Toggl.com as a way to keep track of my time on various tasks and to help me with time management. For instance, so far, I’ve spent forty minutes writing this blog entry. Somehow, if I can see the timer spinning off the minutes and seconds, I stay focused better, and it forces me to be more efficient in my use of time.
I’ll also be using my Scrivener to keep word counts, then recording my progress on NaNoWriMo’s website.
To keep myself from scanning relevant and interesting articles all day long, I’m using Klout.com as an aggregator and to schedule my posts, spacing them out throughout the day, rather than being online all day long or, conversely, dumping them all in a short span of time and overwhelming people with a bunch of links at once. I’ve used Klout in the past, and I find it really helpful. I scan the articles under my chosen topics when I have free time, then let the site take care of the rest. That’s a much better use of my time, and I really like it for that purpose. If I can ever afford to hire an assistant, they can take over some of that sort of work for me, but in the meantime, Klout is the next best thing.
Things I found and posted in the last twenty four hours, include:
- How Many Stars are in the Universe?
- What Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses Tell Us About American History
My friend Kari Kilgore’s new novel is out, and I highly recommend it!
Also, my friend Jeff Chacon also has a new book coming out. The second installment in his Zombie series is due out next month, but the first novel, American Badass, is out now and being made into a film. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s a great read!
In the early summer, I made some revisions to Book One based on suggestions from beta readers, and I’m very pleased with that work.
I’ve made some major changes to my overall outline for Books Two and Three (and maybe even Four), based on where the characters have lead me, and those changes are going to be truly fun to write.
To prepare for the scenes I need to write, I’ve been doing a lot of research, and books are arriving daily to give me inspiration. I’ve also surrounded myself with items that will help me when I get fidgety, including more action figures. I now have a Casanova action figure with Carnival mask action to stand next to my beheadable Marie Antoinette. It seemed appropriate since part of the action in Book Two takes place in Venice.
I’ve got a lot to read, but I’m not going to let that bog down my draft. I can always come back and add more details in the revision process. What’s important is to let the story unfold and give life to the characters. I’m letting myself become immersed in their world, and I can’t wait for what happens next.
It’s all right there in my head.
In addition to my vampire series, I have ideas for a few other novels as well. One that’s a collaboration with another writer, and I’m looking forward to seeing that happen.
Exciting things are coming!
Tell me in the comments:
- What are your upcoming projects? Do you plan to do NaNoWriMo?
- Do you have books/stories that you recommend or that you’ve recently published?
- What do you do to balance writing and social media time?
- How do you keep track of your word counts?
I finished this blog post in an hour and fifteen minutes. Thanks Toggl.com!