Camp Nano Cabin Search

Hello there, my dear friends! Camp Nano kicks off tomorrow at midnight- I am really hoping I will manage to stay awake for the late night start, but there is always a possibility that I will turn into a pumpkin instead. I wanted to extend an invitation to anyone who may be interested or is sitting uncomfortably on the fence- if you would like to join our little writerly challenge, we still have plenty of room available in our group. All ages and genres are welcome (the more diverse the better). You don’t need to have any crazy goals for July- just a love for writing and an openness to talk with other people who share this little passion of ours.

For those who haven’t heard of it- it’s a virtual writing challenge, so no real sleeping bags are needed (unless you want one, then by all means- enjoy). If you would like more info, you can peek at the website right here Camp NaNoWriMo, or feel free to leave me a comment! I’ve participated the past couple of years, and though I’m not an expert, I’d like to think I’ve explored it enough to answer any questions. And if, as I hope you will, you decide to take the plunge and join this lovely little adventure- let me know- I have plenty of room for a friendly face in our cabin.

Happy writing, my friends! It’s going to be another crazy ride.

Tell Me a Story (Writing Prompt): Fears of the Future

Write a story inspired by the prompt and/or the photograph below. All styles and word counts welcome. May the odds be ever in your favor, my friends.

“Much like Icarus flying too close to the sun, our arrogance had been our undoing. In our boastful confidence, we never took the threat seriously. We had been giants for far too long to feel the true danger we were in; not once did we realize that we were Goliath on the verge of meeting David. Oh, how the world shook when we toppled. Some celebrated, some mourned; but everyone knew that nothing would ever be the same again. The meek did not inherit this earth, something more sinister did. That was a generation ago, and we still have not found our road to redemption.”

Original photo taken by myself in Seattle, WA. Shamelessly filtered later
Be bold and brave: leave a link to your story (or the story itself) down in the comments.

Invisible Girl in a Great Big World

There is something appealing about being a tourist in someone else’s city; the anonymity and freedom that comes with the large crowds of strangers jostling one another through busy intersections, giving yourself the freedom to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, take pictures of things that typically would never catch your attention, stare up into the edifices of buildings you are not intimately familiar with. I am a shameless tourist, hitting many of the bigger attractions as I wander through random streets, picking unknown restaurants based on their signs without reading a half dozen reviews online first (something that occasionally drives my fellow travelers nuts).

Naturally, I picked the worst time to take a trip; the first days of Camp Nano were in full swing. And where could I be found? Not at my desk , nor at the kitchen table, not with a pen in my hand or my nose hovering close to the screen of my laptop. Instead, you could spot me wandering through Seattle with my mom and sister for a long-overdue girl’s weekend. This wasn’t my first visit to the home of the Seahawks; no, it’s a jaunt I like to take about once a year. Considering I live only three hours away, I’d say it’s a pretty manageable destination. The thing that I love about it- it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been there, I can always find something new to discover, or old haunts to entertain me.

Now, I could spend this entire post talking about the myriad of adventures you could have in this little gem of a city. I could tell you about standing at the top of the Space Needle with a black sky as your backdrop, watching the city lights spring to life below you. I could describe the winding and weaving of the glass-blown art at the museum across the street. Or explain to you the importance of the caffeine-induced pilgrimage back to the original Starbucks (and let’s not forget about the magic of the French bakery down the street). I could tell you a story about the Farris wheel and how, when given the right lighting, it can leave you with the embers of a ghost story burning in your soul. (Okay, so I just really wanted an excuse to post this picture- it’s probably the best one I’ve ever taken.)


Or perhaps I could divulge some fun facts about the infamous Gum Wall (to which I am a contributing member). It’s the second germiest tourist attraction in the world. I could tell you that in the past 20 years, there have only been a few hours where it wasn’t adorned with the sticky stubstances. It took 30 hours to clean last year- but was quickly returned to its artistic glory with a sticky peace sign that had the Eiffel Tower in the center. 

Or perhaps I should tell you all about the history of the city as we trudge down into the hidden underbelly, embarking on one of the coveted Underground Tours (why yes, my friends, there truly is a city under the city). There are buildings, streets, and stories buried below your feet when you walk through the steep roadways, ready and willing to share just a few of their secrets if you will only listen.


Or perhaps I’ll simply let you know that the best Bloody Mary’s can be found at Sam’s Tavern, if you are willing to trek to the newer side of town (their burgers and waffle-cut sweet potato fries are to die for, and the employees were fantastic).

No, I will not tug a travel-writer hat onto my head and pretend to be an expert today, mainly because Seattle is so much more than a destination for me. It carries more weight than a location I’m simply hoping to check off of a list. This beautiful city always brings me back to the passions of story telling, and it’s for a rather simple reason. A city with a touch of history has a thousand stories buried inside, just waiting to be brought into the light. These old streets whisper to you if you know how to listen, they will show you a human truth if you open your eyes to genuinly see. There is a distinct beauty to a place that carries such a wealth of humanity and diversity within its streets. The artwork that adorned the buildings themselves beg you to release your creative energies out into the world. The people you encounter evoke feelings that can only be whittled away when writing them down on the page.

I always drive away with fresh ideas and a renewed sense of urgency. I drive away with story lines dancing through my mind as characters build themselves out of the elements I found on the streets. I always step away with a sense of purpose. The ability to become invisible in such large crowds is a gift for the writer who simply wishes to observe the world as it truly is, unencumbered by the self-conscious gazes of those who recognize your presence for what it is. Life is the ultimate inspiration, telling you tales if you care to hear them, and this time I listened; I truly listened. As a writer, there is nothing more excruciatingly fulfilling as a story evolving inside, begging to be told. We tell the stories of strangers, we whisper the secrets of cities, we dazzle with tales of the past, the present, and perhaps the future. Sometimes you just need to go somewhere you can be invisible to allow you to truly see.

Love at the Gas Station (I will write you a story)

There is a poetic juxtaposition found in everyday life; a yin for every yang, a push for every pull, a love for every hate. I can spend my entire day assisting with a murder case, astounded at the sheer brutality which occasionally seeps into the human soul, and then that evening I can rediscover the inexplicable beauty found in a chance encounter between two destined beings.

You can meet the most important people in your life under the most banal circumstances. And yet, that whisper of a spark, that fluttering of magic, that taste of excitement still permeates the air. I have learned that the second you think you have your life all figured out, a curve ball will make its way to you. You can swing for it or dive out of the way. The call is yours alone.

I adore people-watching, I am far too nosy to simply mind my own business and stay focused on my little corner of the world. I am a shameless eavesdropper (in my defense, it’s not always intentional, I’m just completely incapable of trying to drown out voices if they are close to me). I love seeing snippets of people’s lives and making up a story to go with it. I find the prospect of taking a tiny peek into another person’s existence invigorating and refreshing. I like to blame this trait on my inner writer, excusing any lapse in decorum with a sheepish tilt of the head, explaining the insatiable desire of an author’s curiosity.

You can find a story in any moment, if only you stop long enough to watch the world unfold around you. The chiming of my low fuel sensor forced me to take the exit near my home to fill up the tank (shh, don’t tell my family, they all hate when I let it get so low that the car has to physically yell at me. Admittedly their frustration is warranted- a few years ago I had to be rescued on a back country road on Christmas Eve when I pushed my luck too far and ran out of gas). I dutifully pulled into the only open pump and got out of the car. Across from me was a large truck with an adorable dog poking her head out the back window. The owner stood waiting for his monstrous fuel tank to be satiated (as someone who once drove a 1985 Ford F-250, I can feel the pain a trip to the pump costs). On the other side of his pump was a cute woman, around the same age with curly brown hair and a button nose.
I tried not to be too obvious as I listened to them nonchalantly joking and sharing pleasantries. He slipped in the fact that he was divorced as she giggled beside him before saying goodbye and climbing back into her own car. Now, if there is anything I have learned in life, it is that it only takes two seconds of blind courage to change your stars; for the better or for the worst. As I stood there waiting, I couldn’t help but notice the way she hesitated before leaving, finally stepped out of her car and subtly sneaking up beside him with a little slip of paper in her hand. She handed it to him with a smile. He grinned back as he put it in his pocket and said something I couldn’t distinguish. They shared a final knowing glance before she got back in her car and drove away.

Now, personally, I am a sucker for a good love story. And there is nothing that carries the same unfettered excitement as the first meeting with someone who makes your heart flutter. The writer in me was imagining their first phone call shortly followed by quippy texts. What would their first date be like? Would it be a classy restaurant complete with a bottle of nice red wine, or pizza, beer and bowling? Would she call her friends afterwards with cautious optimism? Would she brag about how cute he was, or the way he pulled her chair out for her at dinner? Would he go to work tired because he couldn’t stop thinking about her the night before? Will they take that adorable dog on a trip to the coast together? How would he propose? Would it be a summer or winter wedding? What would they name their first child? Will I see them a few years from now at the same gas station and not even realize that I was once the only privy observer to their first chance meeting?

I am a writer; I will internally edit their future, allowing their fictional selves to soar through the clouds before hitting some turbulence. But in the end, my vision of them will always be together, making it work and loving one another through the mundane and difficult moments of life. They will still hold hands at 83, explaining to their grand babies what a gas station was (because fingers crossed, maybe we will have other options by then). I will write them a happily ever after that I don’t know they will ever experience. But I can hope. Because that is the beauty of writers; we can create something out of nothing, we can pen the happy endings that so few of us get to see in our lifetimes. We can right wrongs, cure as, and yes- even make two people fall in love.

Non-Traditional Camp Nano (ready or not)

I finally did it! I have officially registered for Camp Nano! (Cue the fireworks, alert the parade, start the countdown for the trapeze artists, and someone please feed the dancing bears before they go on stage). Okay, so technically I meant to sign up at the beginning of the month, but it felt impossible simply because I could not decide on a project to dedicate the entire month of April to.

When it comes to Nano, I tend to be a bit of a traditionalist. I love a 50,000 word count goal, even during Camp. I adore starting a fresh project to push me through the month. There is nothing more thrilling than waiting for midnight (or the next day after work) to start filling in that blank page with the feverish creations of my own off-kilter mind. It’s an intoxicating moment; the total elation you get when you start a new project and the words flow smoothly, unencumbered by plot bunnies, storyline inconsistencies and wayward character. The page is like a blanket of freshly fallen snow, just waiting for you to come running out in the morning and start building your own little winter wonderland. I’ve always loved the thrill of a brand new Nano project.

And yet there is one big problem with continually brining in something fresh and new to the Nano table; if you do not diligently follow through on your editing during the post-Nano snooze, you wind up with a half dozen partially complete projects that are nowhere near being ready for public consumption. And this, my dear friends, is the dilemma that I have been facing. I need to spend a lot more time on my editing; it’s no secret, I will sing it from the mountain tops, I am well aware of the traps I set for myself in my literary haven. 

The problem really boils down to the fact that editing can be difficult and tedious work. It’s not nearly as thrilling as the first draft where anything goes and you can be a bit loose with your story line, reveling in the comfortable knowledge that you can fix it later. But if you keep on saying ‘later,’ eventually you realize that it will never really happen. Can I truly continue to hold on to the title of writer if I am unintentionally so resistant to the editing that I’ve had sitting on my to-do list for ages?

So this Nano, I have decided to be bold and try something a bit different, something that scares me more than I care to admit. You see, Camp Nano has added some pretty awesome new features to their website this year. When you go to register your story, you are presented with a few options that were not present a year ago. Instead of just the traditional word count, there are now three other tracking methods that will assist with different types of projects. Moving forward you can now track your progress by counting pages, lines, or hours. That’s right- they are making life about a hundred times easier for those pursuing projects that don’t fit the cookie-cutter word-count model. So in honor of this new change, I have decide to embrace it by throwing myself into my very first non-traditional Nano. 

I am going to spend my Camp on an editing project for an old story that I truly believe has a future. It’s a dystopian style novel that I wrote a couple of years ago, the first in a series. It has a decent storyline, but really needs to be pulled together. The prose needs to be tighter, the characters etched with a touch more definition, the plot carved into the soil a bit deeper. My first drafts always tend to come out a bit too fluffy- like I threw the pages into the dryer with an entire box of fabric softener. I have to chip away at the nice edges and force a bit of grit, inflict a dash of pain, boil the pretty words down until the rougher edges of the underlying humanity start to take shape. 

There will be a lot of re-writing involved, but it didn’t feel right to limit myself to a word count this year; I want to focus on the quality of the work for this round, not just the quantity. And if I work hard enough, perhaps I will be able to reward myself with the beginnings of a brand new novel during the summer Nano.

My next adventure will be all about finding a cabin for camp, a daunting task when you are working on something a bit non-traditional. However, I believe that particular quest is one I shall embark upon tomorrow. Stay tuned, my friends, I am quite sure I will be continually updated you on these little hopes, dreams, misadventures and potential bouts of begging for help.

If anyone is interested in joining (or if you have zero idea what Nano is and think I have finally lost every single marble I once possessed), take a peek at Camp NaNoWriMo. If you want to challenge yourself and your writerly ways, it is a fantastic motivator to get your booty in the chair every single day.  NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month) holds two virtual camp sessions every year; you get to pick your own project, set your own goal for the month, and if you wish you can opt to join a ‘cabin’ or have one randomly selected for you. A cabin is basically just a message board with a specific group of other writers who are also participating. You track your progress and help one another on your journey. It’s addictive, and I have met some fantastic people over the years. The community is large and extremely supportive. I also find that a lot of them are just a tad odd- so I tend to feel more at home with them than with a lot of the ‘real’ world. If you are interested in joining, let me know- perhaps we might even be able to set up a private cabin. When it comes to Nano, the possibilities are endless.

The Ladies of Literature (the gender gap and other surprising revelations)

Raise your margaritas my lovely ladies, in honor of International Women’s Day. Today was beautiful; the last time I saw this much female love and empowerment was in the bathroom at my favorite dive bar. Admit it my female friends- we will never be as kind and supportive as we are when we meet in the restroom after a couple of drinks. If we could bottle that mentality and carry it over to our sober selves, the world would be a much happier place. Given our current political climate, today was ushered in with an unusual amount of fanfare and excitement. As a woman who proudly carries the title of feminist, I have found so much hope in the outpouring of love that I saw today. 

March is National Women’s History Month, and many bookstores are celebrating with discounts and special events. I’ve never paid much attention to the gender of the authors that I read; my tastes are all over the board, I voraciously read anything and everything. I always just assumed that I read predominantly female works, or at least a fairly equal amount for both sexes. But I decided to try a little experiment, one I hope you will consider attempting yourself: can you think of the last five or ten books that you have read? Do you have them in your mind? Good. Now, out of that list- how many of those authors were females?

Does the answer surprise you? Because it shocked the hell out of me. Out of the last five books I’ve read, every single one of them was written by a man. Out of the last ten, four were written by a woman. So I decided to delve a little bit deeper, I was curious- surely I read more female authors than that. I keep track of all of my books on Goodreads, I am a chronic list-creator; it makes me happy inside (don’t judge too harshly). So I looked through the list of every book I have read so far in 2017. And do you know what I found? Only 25% were written by women (several, in fact, were written by the same woman). How is that possible? Is there really that much of a disparity in the literary world, or have I just been following an insular pattern when selecting my books?

There is a used bookseller in Cleveland, Ohio that noticed this disparity. Harriett Logan, owner of Loganberry Books, noticed that there was a vast difference in genders of the authors she carried in her store. She estimated that out of the roughly 10,000 pieces of fiction in her shop, nearly two-thirds were written by men. To illustrate this point, she decided that art could speak louder than her words alone. Together with several employees and volunteers, they went through the fiction section and flipped around every single book written by a male author. The visual is astounding.


The point that they were trying to make was that the gender gap in publication can still be a very real issue that aspiring female authors may have to face. Are you suspicious of this claim? Truthfully, I was too, so I decided to run my own little investigation. My conclusions surprised me, to say the least.

In 2015 author Catherine Nichols decided to try her hand at an interesting experiment. She sent out identental queries to dozens of agents under both her own name as well as a male pen-name. The length of time it took to garner a response was much shorter for her male counterpart; after sending the first six queries under his name, she received her first response within minutes, to be followed by four more- three of which included requests for a manuscript (many more were to follow as she continued her experiment). On the other side of the equation, after fifty queries were sent out under her own female name, she only received two requests for a manuscript. At the conclusion of this little test she found that George (her fictional male alter-ego) was 8.5 times more likely that she was to get a manuscript request from an agent. Let that sink in for a moment. As she so elequently put it, he was “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book.”  

This isn’t as isolated an incident as I had originally thought. As it turns out, there are many authors who choose to publish under a male pen name, or in the alternative, have their work published under an ambiguous name. Take J.K Rowling, for example; her publisher was afraid that a woman’s name on the cover would hurt book sales- and thus, her initials became famous. She isn’t the only one either; Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte, Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot), Ann Rule, Louisa May Alcott, Nelle Harper Lee, and Nora Roberts, have all worked under male pseudonyms. 

Some studies suggest that one of the problems that women face when it comes to finding a good foothold in the literary world comes down to publicity. An Australian study conducted over a lengthy period of time (from 1985 to 2013) found that female authors were less likely to make it into book reviews and similar publications that would help boost book sales. Over this particular time period, two-thirds of the books written were by female authors, and yet two-thirds of the books featured in publishing reviews were written by men. These numbers haven’t changed much in the past 30 years and have shown be consistent with global trends. Male authors also have a higher probability of winning awards for their work as well as being included on school syllabus reading lists.

Now, these observances aren’t in any way meant to demean the work of our male counterparts; we all share the same passions, and as such, we share the same joy and excitement to see the successes of others who share in this crazy way of life. That being said, as a female author who carries the dream of being published someday, I find these statistics to be disheartening, to say the least. It is a reminder that, though we have come so far and etched a place for ourselves in this complicated society, there are still fields where we will have to openly face gender bias, whether intential or not. It is a stunning reminder that I will have to decide if my work will be best sent off into the word under a name that is not my own. It scares me, to be honest, that I may have to fight that much harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same dream that we both carry. Breaking into publishing is challenging enough without feeling like the deck may be stacked against you.

And yet, we live in a world of constant change. Modern technology has transformed everything about our daily lives, and the publishing industry was not exempt from these trends. The current shifting taking place in the publishing world; the opening up of the market through the use of self-publishing is categorically changing the game. If you couple that with the fact that women are traditionally the largest consumers of literature; you realize the power that we have to change these traditional trends. We can choose to market our work under our own name, we can choose to publish our work directly to the masses and use social media to publicize it. We can keep on submitting out work, continue to fight for those cherished dreams. Through adversity our work will flourish, it is during the struggles that we discover our true message and our voice. Ladies, let them hear your stories, don’t let them look away or shuffle you to the bottom of the pile. My name is Kaitlynn, I am a female author, and I am damn proud to be one, even if that means my road will be a little bit bumpier.