Camp Nano Adventures- If You Dare

Pull out the marshmallows, charge your laptop and stock up on your favorite summer treats- Camp Nano is back! At the end of the week we go charging into yet another literary adventure, my dear friends- if you dare to take the plunge. The July session of Camp Nano is set to begin at the stroke of midnight this very Friday. Be still my beating heart, I cannot wait!


Last camp didn’t feel particularly authentic to me. I was in an incredible cabin full of active and vibrant individuals who were constantly chatting and running word sprints together. It was truly inspiring- and yet, I had opted to work on an editing project for the last go-round. Granted, it was something that I deeply needed to invest in- but truthfully, I felt a bit left out. So this time around I am perhaps ignoring my better judgment and trying my hand at a brand new project. In fact, I will be working in a genre I don’t generally dabble in- a touch of historical fiction will be shaping my summer. 

I’m so excited; I have my plot all lined up, a soft sketch of my characters is sitting firmly in my mind, and I am ready to hit the ground running (If I manage to stay up until midnight on Friday, that is). It feels so good to play with a new story after I’ve spent so long diving into prior projects that are still in disrepair, no matter how much tlc I smother them with. I have new characters to know, new sets to craft, new shinanigans for them to dance through.

But the one thing that I am still on the lookout for: a few wayward writers in search of their own adventure. I set up a cabin this year (a bit later than usual), and now I am hoping to find some brave souls to embark on this journey with me. They’ve made camp so versatile this past year that you can really do just about anything with it. There are new methods of tracking your work, new styles you can claim- which makes your nontraditional paths much easier to traverse. I’ve worked on new novels, editing, poetry and even blog posts in previous years- the opportunities are endless. Not to mention the fact that they’ve expanded the figurative walls in each cabin- now you can easily accommodate 20 people in each group. And did I mention they finally set it up so you can name your cabin? It’s the little things in life that bring the most joy, I promise you this.

So if you dare to dream of the written word, my friend; if you have adventures running through your blood and stories singing in your heart- what do you have to lose? Take the plunge, my dear. Would you like to join me, fellow traveler? The fire is warm and the company is good. I can’t promise we will succeed in our endeavors, but I can swear that the journey will be well worth the work we put into it. Much like the brave little hobbits prodded by a wise wizard- you won’t know what you are capable of until you take that chance and step outside of your comfort zone. Please, dear friends- do you care to share in an adventure?

Reading Dangerously

Books have the ability to shape minds and sculpt opinions, they are as diverse as the people we share this beautiful world with. They can change us if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves and our beliefs. What we choose to read will show in who we become as people, and, as creators, it will become apparent in what we bring into this world. Whatever your chosen medium is, you have the power to make an impact with it, to become timeless and honest. I want to write books that change people, I want to pen articles that make others question what they thought, or provide them with a glimmer of hope that they are not alone, that they have an ally in a world that has too few. I want to write Dangerously, and to do that, I must read the same way.

When I was in high school we had weekly opinion pieces to write and then group debates on a myriad of subjects we originally knew nothing about, and a few key topics our teachers were brave enough to let us choose ourselves. One of their favorite things to do: make us argue a side we deeply opposed. Why? Because it forces you to learn, it compels you to challenge your own views and opinions and, in effect, discover a sense of compassion for those you disagree with.

It is no secret that we live in an interesting time; though not as unique as we may imagine it to be. We have hot button issues that compel passions within individuals that are unrivaled. Passion is a double-edged sword, and in a world of misinformation, skewed propaganda, and sensationalization: passion can be a unforgiving and dangerous blade. It seems that searching for information and challenging our own thoughts has become too difficult a task. It is far too easy to get swept away in the sea of words we have billowing out around us.

At the end of 2016 I started working through some of the books I’ve left idling on my shelf, books that ignited a curiosity and passion inside of me, some of them made me question my current belief system, and others managed to reinforce my opinions with information that I did not previously possess. They gave me a fire, and a deeper understanding of the world around me. And they reminded me of how complicated and colorful our world really is. 

I believe in tolerance and compassion, but there are many cultures and social issues I still only had limited knowledge of. I felt unable to voice my opinion in fear that I was missing something. At the same time, I feel we all have a social obligation to help one another and defend each other from unwarranted hate and preconceived notions.

It was my desire to challenge and educate myself that led to a very specific goal this year, one that I suspect will continue far longer than these 12 coming months. The challenge: to read dangerously, to confront my own views and biases and force them to make a case, to expand my knowledge and, with that, my understanding of this complicated world that we live in. It is a year to remember those long-forgotten facets of our history and find the correlation with our current troubles. It is a chance to propel ourselves to be better people.

I was originally thinking about monthly themes, and while I may eventually transition that way, right now I am simply enjoying the extensive and random selection of books I own but have been sitting unread. I have books covering all subjects: history, religion, race issues, sexuality, the sciences, biographies of strong women, athletes, and world leaders, philosophy, classics and modern tales that shape us in unseen ways. I have books that I suspect will support my current beliefs, and ones that I have a strong inclination will test them. 

Now, I have hopes that this will be somewhat interactive, though I think it will evolve a bit as we go. I have just finished Voyage of the Damned, a phenomenal book I will be doing a follow-up post on in the coming week (spoiler: I highly recommend it). If you would like to see the 2016 books that inspired this, feel free to peek here: Tipsy Typer’s Top Ten Year-End Literary Lovelies

My current selections include an overview of world history in the form of The New Penguin History of the World because, well, I am a bit rusty and I’ve tried to read this lengthy tome many times- darn it, I will do it this time! Also, I am finally reading The Quran; I’ve always had an interest in religious studies and have read the texts of other religions, but have never made it to this one. Thus far it has been very eye-opening in terms of some of its similarities to a few other predominant religions. I think a big part of understanding and having compassion stems with educating yourself on what is important and fundamental to other people. Religion is a driving force for many, and learning to respect that and understand the similarities as well as the differences will go a long way on our road to acceptance and appreciation. I also just started a promising new read that follows my underlying theme: Threading My Prayer Rug

But I want to ask you all: what suggestions do you have for me? What books have changed you, expanded your views or made you ask questions? The genre, the subject matter, geared towards children or adults- there are no boundaries, any book that made you feel something, learn something, or challenged you in some way; I’d love to hear about it and add it to my list. And if you care to immerse yourself in your own Reading Dangerously challenge, feel free to comment; I think sharing this experiment with others would only help us all grow.

Cheers, my friends, may we forever find the strength within ourselves to keep growing and changing.

Ready for Another Adventure: Nano, Day 1

I adore the beginnings of an adventure, whether it be the moment that plane takes off and you get that odd jolt in your stomach, or that first step when you are ready to jump from a diving board, or even the first few pages of a crisp new book providing you with promises of what will await your future. Oh yes, my friends, much like the first few months of a new relationship, there are the nervous jitters, the steady stream of pleasant surprises and new experiences that these endeavors will unveil to you. I love beginnings. There is nothing like the enthusiasm of a fresh start, a promise unmarred by past experiences, a tale whose ending is still deeply shrouded in mystery. As much as I love the comfort of the known, there is nothing as invigorating as the first step of a new adventure. It makes you feel alive.

Today was yet another beginning for me, one that I have been selfishly anticipating for the past year. My favorite writing challenge has commenced, Nanowrimo is back! I raise my mug of tea and send a ‘cheers’ out to all of my fellow participants; may we be the Sam to one another’s Frodo, the Sherlock to our Watsons, the Tock to each other’s Milo (okay, that was a Phantom Tollbooth reference that I suspect only a few of you may have understood). This is an adventure that we may walk together, though the battles are fought individually. It is the people, the support of those who follow this trail with us that make Nano what it truly is. I can take any month of the year and pledge to write 50,000 words, but it is the community that keeps me going this month, that gets me excited enough to do a midnight happy dance. So to all of you- thank you for joining, you make this whole adventure what it is. I hope this month goes as beautifully as you planned, and if any wrenches find their way into your work, well, I hope they lead you down some daring paths that will make your words all the richer for their struggle.

The beginning is always the hardest, we work so painstakingly at what we do that taking the first step can be daunting, and yet, much like riding a bike, it is that first push you need to get the wheels going that will be the most difficult. It’s a lot of pressure, trying to figure out the best way to introduce the ideas you’ve been carrying inside, percolating in your mind- how ever will you be able to do it justice with only a few sentences at your disposal to hook the unsuspecting reader? And yet, here we are anyway, already a day in and slowly finding our way through the challenges that we must face head on.

I was fortunate this year and managed to get a few days off from work, which gave me the rare opportunity to stay up late and jump straight into a midnight start. I am ashamed to admit that I almost didn’t make it, 11:00 became a bit touch and go for me thanks to a few good movies and yummy food that left me far too relaxed and content. But alas, I rallied, and when the clock struck 12, my fingers began to dance across the keyboard. Oh how I missed it! I’ve been working on editing projects for the past two months, with varying levels of success (okay, so October was a bit of a struggle and I really didn’t get much done on the editing front). I didn’t realize how much I had missed simply writing. There is a unrestrained fervor that comes with a first draft, a feverish excitement when you are simply collecting the sand to build castles with later. You get to keep your focus trained on the idea itself, not the presentation or the packaging that it comes in. I find this draft to be the most liberating, when you are physically unspooling the story from your soul so that you can create something beautiful. It is liberating, and damn, did I miss it. I feel whole again, as strange as that may sound. Even typing away on a silly piece of fiction makes me feel more authentic than I have in months. So I kept typing, stringing one word after another until my eyes couldn’t look at the screen anymore without crossing. And when I woke up, I went back and did it again.

I am so thrilled with how my project is going this time around. Let me start off by saying that this is not a fresh idea I am working on, so I have a bit of an unfair advantage in that department. This is a project I began last Camp, and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I decided to keep my characters and some very basic plot points, but everything was scrapped. I started fresh with the added benefit of knowing my characters a bit more intimately than someone working on a pristine, untouched piece. I must say though, the distance that I took from the project has made all the difference in the world. I have a clearer idea of how I want everything to play out. I know the direction I want to take and I have figured out how to tease out the important details in this story. I finally pushed through the wall that kept knocking me back down last time around. I came back ready to fight, and so far, I think I’m winning.

I must admit, today wasn’t completely issue free. You see, I wanted to sit down for the whole day and see what I could accomplish without distraction. Silly me forgot all about my writing time’s arch nemesis, which comes in the form of a bat-eared four-legged K-9 companion. Link, my German Shepherd, is a sweetheart, truly. He is my cuddle bug when I am sick, my partner in crime when I am in search of a midnight snack, the guard who keeps the cat out of the closet when I’m folding laundry, and my safety net when I’m home alone and can think of nothing except those scary movies I’ve watched. He is my caped crusader, my ride or die. He is also my biggest distraction in the best possible way. Today was no exception. You see, he would much rather be out in the world creature a real life adventure instead of laying at me feet as I pen an imagined one. He is my constant reminder that life must occasionally be lived outside of my head. Once he has decided that it’s break time, he starts sounding off like a broken alarm clock. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a German Shepherd once they start feeling ‘chatty,’ but barking is no longer in their vocabulary. They start yipping like Dino from the Flintstones. On repeat. Over and over and over. Until they have broken you and you give in to all of their demands. I’m telling you, if he wanted to, this dog could take over the world. Luckily, I believe he would be a benevolent ruler, so we have that in our favor.

As it turns out, the walk that he forced me to take wound up being exactly what I needed to refresh and reenergize myself. Who knew that my four-legged friend knew more about what I needed that I did? not only that, it was a beautiful day outside. When we got back he was ready for a nap and I was able to cruise through another few thousand words unhindered.

Day one will be counted as a success, and I am going to ride this wave as long as it lasts, because I know when the tables turn, they will turn hard. And I really want to hit 100k this year.

Current stats:

Word count: 11,075

Out of: 100,000, which puts me at: 11% complete.

Words remaining: 88,925 (in 29 days)

Current mood on project: Excited and rolling with it while it lasts

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The Character Challenge (live the story)

I always wanted to be a badass. But, as it turns out, being tall and wiry with virtually no muscle tone, chipmunk cheeks and glasses does not scream ‘fear me.’ No, I know what you are thinking, with my verbal jujitsu, how could I possibly be anything but hardcore? And yet it’s true. Even when I put on my sassy pants people tend to refer to me as ‘cute’ rather than ‘ferociously pee-your-pants terrifying.’ If the zombie apocalypse suddenly broke out, I strongly suspect I would not be the gun slinging hero that pulls together the remaining humans- I wouldn’t even be the zombie charging forward to eat said gun slinging badass. No, let’s face reality- I would be the zombie who tripped over a garden hose and happened to impale her poor little noggin on a gnome, effectively ending her anti-climactic undead existence.

Perhaps it is my own lackluster abilities that draws me towards the strong characters I write. For just a brief little period in time I get to pretend to be these brave beings that I’ve always wanted to emulate. I get to live a thousand and one adventures through the gifts of a few pages and some ink. I get to be tough, to do the things I could only imagine in my regular day-to-day life.

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I’ve had an idea percolating in my brain for quite some time now, but it didn’t really resonate with me until Memorial Day. I live in the Pacific Northwest- first rule of living here: Don’t be afraid of the rain. Second rule of living here: When the sun decides to grace you with its presence, you go outside and enjoy it. So I did just that. A couple of co-workers and I decided to go on a hike we had never done before. It was supposed to be seven miles round trip- more than I’m used to, but not that bad. It wound up being eleven. Along the way we had to cross about a dozen creeks by hopping from one dry rock to the next until we made it to the path on the other side. When we made it to the lake we decided to follow the trail around it. When it split into two sections, we took the one closest to the water. This, incidentally, turned out to be a mistake, but we took it in stride- the motto of the day being ‘let’s have an adventure.’ So when the lake came up and over a portion of our path, we decided not to turn back, instead we took our shoes off and waded in. And when our path culminated in a rock wall about twice my height- we climbed it. Then, when the sketchy wooden planks were the only things keeping us from falling into a mud bath below- we ran across. It was safe to say that we managed to have our adventure.

Over our celebratory drinks and BBQ afterwards, I couldn’t help but come to two realizations. First: no beer will ever taste as good as the first beer after a long hike (Thank you Stella Artois for your lovely concoction, it was truly perfection). Second: I just might be capable of some of my own badassery after all. Perhaps I do have it in me to be like those tough women I write about. Maybe, just maybe, I am not like those fictional characters because I have never given myself the chance to be. After all- I just walked 11 miles on a whim, I climbed a rock wall, I forded creeks, I waded into a lake that had snow merely feet away- me, I did that. I have to admit, in spite of the fact that my muscles are currently screaming at me every time I try to stand and my back is the color of the Kool-Aid guy (note to self: never forget the sun screen at post-hike happy hour)- I feel a bit like a badass.

And that was when the ideas really started taking root- what if I decided to challenge myself to be more like my characters? What if I try to live a life worthy of the stories that I tell? The Character Challenge (okay, so I haven’t put as much thought into the name- I’ve been more preoccupied with the content). The goal will be two-fold: to gain better insight to enrich my writing, and also to help me become a more well-rounded person in general. It’s for my own character, as well as the character of my characters (apologies- I had to do that just once, don’t worry, it’s now out of my system).

I’ve always believed that it is the truth that is hidden in a piece of fiction that is what makes it come to life. Personal experience is a large part of that truth. So why not try to improve myself along with my work? At the very least, I’ll have some good stories for my next happy hour. It will be a great way to get into my characters’ heads while simultaneously cleaning out my own. It will also be a bit of an experiment: perhaps I will find something that really makes a difference in my work.

So here is the first challenge: Physical badassery

Generally speaking, physical ability is the bedrock of any literary badass. This is actually something I have been meaning to work on anyways- I have let myself get out of shape and I hate it. Keeping your body fit and healthy is one of the best things you can do for your brain. So this little challenge will double as an experiment: will I notice any difference in my writing abilities as I proceed?

I think its about time to fish those boxing gloves out from the closet and see what I am capable of. Game on.

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