The NaNoWriMo launch post

Happy Halloween everyone!

In yesterday’s episode, we had a little mini-debate on NaNoWriMo, which, for anyone who doesn’t know, is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a first draft of a novel, or 50,000 words.

All three of us on the show – Meghan, Olivia and Ayanna – have attempted NaNo before, and none of us have done the full 50k words – or “won,” in the terms of the organizers (we’ll come back to that in a second). We had a bit of a debate on the show, about the ambivalence that all of us feel about this.

On one hand, Olivia found the collectivity and community really inspirational last year – it was the first time that she had really started writing almost every day. It was a great motivator to wake up early, to have a routine, but also to have a group of people doing it at the same time. In other words, you could say that NaNo last year did what this podcast is doing this year – linking her up with other writers and their routines. So even though she didn’t write 50k words, she wrote a lot, and she liked it.

Meghan and Ayanna struggle with their perfectionism because of some of the language around winning and the quantitative goal.

Here’s the thing, right? You don’t have to do the whole 50k words. I know, this is a sort of rebel approach, but we decided that, for both Olivia and Meghan, we need to set our own goals that are focused on drawing on the community – but also being realistic about the demands of our schedules.

Olivia’s goal? To write 20k words. (Last month, she did 12k of a 15k goal, so this is a stretch but not impossible.)

And Meghan’s? To participate in the community, cheer people on, and keep up the schedule and routine that is working for her – without putting additional pressure on herself.

We’re using the metaphor of a marathon race: you can still show up, but maybe you need to run the 5k or 10k or half marathon, if you’re not ready for the full marathon. And sometimes (like I did this past weekend), you are just cheering for the runners – and that’s really important, too.

So, where can you find us? 

We have started a forum in the writing club section, specifically about the Marginally thing – writing when you have a day job. Please join us there!

You can also add us as buddies: Here’s Olivia’s NaNo profile, and Meghan’s profile.

Finally, we will also be following, lurking and commenting in various fora, but especially:

  • Olivia’s genre, thriller/suspense has a forum
  • Our age group has a forum (it’s suitably wide so not giving anything away here)
  • We love the NaNo Rebels page – all different types of goals, genres and everything else (we’ll be here a lot)
  • Meghan will be doing a 6:30 am EST sprint most mornings — check this thread for the daily link

We’ll post more as we go on.

We’d love to hear from you: are you doing NaNo? Why, or why not? What’s your goal?

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Episode 9 is up, and we talk making time and space for writing, and Nanowrimo

Today, we’re stoked to talk to librarian Ayanna Gaines about reconnecting with her creative side, balancing work and writing, and how she sets up her space to nurture her art. We also chat National Novel Writing Month, and Olivia helps Meghan figure out how to set her Nano goals.

Ayanna Gaines is a librarian and pop culture geek in Southern California. She’s just made the switch from academia to public libraries and is reconnecting with her creative writing side.

Her academic work includes the chapter “That’s Women’s Work: Pink-Collar Professions, Gender, and the Librarian Stereotype” in The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work” and papers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls.

She writes poetry and is hard at work on her first novel. You can find her and her adorable kittens on Twitter @popcullibrn or Instagram @againeslibrarian

Full show notes are here, and you can subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever get your podcasts.

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Writing Prompt 1: Olivia’s response and Meghan’s comments

Earlier this week, Olivia posted my response to our first writing prompt and her critique. As promised, here’s her response and my critique — remember, rule #1 is be kind.

“Have a seat.” Gareth turned away from the window and waved towards a chair in front of his desk.

I squeezed past the desk and settled between the chipped maple arms, onto the seat made of worn office-blue fabric with tiny pink dots. He pulled the tall leather chair back from his desk and sat, gazing patiently at me from a chair set at considerable height. I felt like I was visiting the principal’s office, seven years old, sulking in cheap mass-produced furniture.

“I made some calls.”

“What did they say? Will he live?”

Gareth shook his head, almost shrugged. “They still don’t know.”

We sat for a few seconds in empty quiet. I let the image of Igor, surrounded by doctors, sink in.

“But he’s in London?”

Gareth nodded, his eyes betraying a feint surprise – perhaps that I was still there.

“Getting the best care, at least.” My words felt flippant, revealing how much I wanted to pretend that everything was okay.

“Anna, I think you should go –” he glanced around the room, pausing deliberately “– on the business trip. That we planned.”

“We – um, did?”

“The meetings in London?” He nodded, eyebrows raised.

I frowned, shook my head, then belatedly noticed the way he’d left spaces between the phrases, like signs in the words, to lead me through the conversation.

“You have two days. After that, I can’t guarantee anything.” He pulled open the drawer, pulled out a folded piece of paper.

“It’s your ticket.”

I smiled at the ink-jet-printed page, with its black and white Russian airline logo. As if nothing on the internet was real unless it was transferred to paper.

So, in terms of comments:
  • First of all, I love the way the information unfolds in the dialogue, in little stepping-stone bits. It’s a dynamic way to move the scene along. We don’t know where they are, or what the relationship is between Anna and Igor, but we get hints.
  • I like how this motion is echoed in the phrase, “I frowned, shook my head, then belatedly noticed the way he’d left spaces between the phrases, like signs in the words, to lead me through the conversation.”
  • I also liked the comment about nothing on the internet being real unless it’s transferred to paper.
  • I’d like to see other senses pulled into the descriptions — maybe convey the cheapness of the chair by describing how the fabric feels, rather than looks.

Remember, this is really draft and we haven’t particularly edited it – we wanted to be genuine with you! This is a great way to realize that everything can be revised, that each comment isn’t a way to say you can’t write something, but just a suggestion for how to make it better in the next draft.

We’d love to hear your responses — send them to us and let us know if you’d like them to be featured on the show.

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Writing Prompt 1: Meghan’s response & Olivia’s comments

As promised on today’s podcast, we are posting our responses and the mini-critique comments we discussed on the show. Of course we’d love to hear your responses as well. The rules of the mini-critique are that you should pick out something positive, and then where you see potential suggestions or improvements, be constructive. Basically, like in so many spheres, the rule is “don’t be mean.”
October writing prompt: Your boss calls you into their office. What happens next?
Anyway, this is Olivia – I am posting Meghan’s response* and some comments below. So first, Meghan’s response:
“Roz.” Margot beckoned from the doorway of her office. Her face was blank – for me, or for my coworkers’ benefit, I couldn’t tell. I unhooked from the network and stood.
I waited in front of Margot’s desk while she closed the blinds on both the office-facing window and the one that overlooked the street outside. Margot shut the door.
“There’s been a mistake,” she said. Then she disappeared.
Just — gone. I ran over to her desk and looked behind it, frantic. I crawled on the floor — maybe she was hiding under the desk — but she wasn’t there. There was no sign of her, nothing left behind, except me.
Sweat rolled down my sides from under my arms, and I sat back against the gray steel cabinet in the corner to think. No one could know. I had to get out, fast.
The handle of the cabinet dug between my shoulder blades and I turned. The drawer wasn’t closed all the way. Something [[i don’t know what – I haven’t figured that out yet]] was wedged inside. I pulled it out and slipped it in my waistband.
With one last look, I slipped out of the door. “Thanks, Margot,” I said as I closed it. “Yep, I’ll take care of that.”
I couldn’t leave right away – I needed to know if Margot’s absence was discovered, and I couldn’t look suspicious. I needn’t have worried. The afternoon crawled by and by the time I left, I was a wreck. I hadn’t done a thing, unable to face connecting again in case someone was able to read what had happened, and I had no idea how I could find out about the [[[whatever thing]]] I had found without being tracked.
As soon as I got home, I checked both rooms in my apartment, every cupboard, every corner.
So, in terms of comments:
  • First of all, I really liked how the suspense builds here, and the way the reader is drawn into a world and infers so much from the scene and the setting just from the small amount of text here.
  • I also really liked the image of the “afternoon crawling by” – it’s not a phrase I’d heard a lot and it’s a really good image.
  • I thought, in terms of things that could be done differently, I am a little bit weird in that I have a logistical mind, and so I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out where the door was, compared to the desk and the window. I couldn’t imagine it, so I suggested to take another look at that part at the beginning.
  • And finally, there were a few points where I liked the phrase, and they short cut us to the feeling we need to get, but I thought they could be more vivid. For example, “by the time I left, I was a wreck” and the word “frantic” in the fourth paragraph. What did that look like? What would it smell or sound like? And so we talked on the podcast about the importance of being in touch with all your senses in describing something.

But overall, we really enjoyed this process – although it was scary – and we look forward to hearing from you all.


* As we said on the podcast, this is really draft and we haven’t particularly edited it – we wanted to be genuine with you and hopefully to get you guys to participate with us in future ones!


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Episode 8 is up, and it’s scary (for us)

In episode 8, we do something super scary — we share our responses to this month’s writing prompt, and have a mini-critique session.

If you want in on the fun, send us yours here, or post in the comments! We’d love to hear what you came up with. We talk at the end of the episode about how useful it is to get feedback on our writing, both to improve and to realize that room for improvement is natural, and doesn’t make you a bad artist.

We also talk more about schedules and managing the stress of multiple projects — good to think about as National Novel Writing Month (for those who wonder what the heck this Nanowrimo thing is) approaches — and Olivia comes up with a great motto.

The writing prompt, if you missed it in episode 6, is:

Your boss calls you into their office. What happens next?

What mottos keep you going?

motto less crisis

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Episode 7 gets real

We posted Episode 7, and in it we open up about the ugly side of writing when you have a day job – when you can’t really manage to fit everything in, when you feel frustrated, or when you’re just really freaking tired. We know everyone feels this sometimes, so we just went with this feeling, picked it apart, and then talked about some of the things that can get us to writing.

Some of it comes down to this –

– but there’s some other stuff in the episode as well.

As always, we would love to hear how you are doing – so contact us here, on Instagram, or by email. Send us a voice memo, and we will include it on the show!

Full show notes are here.

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Episode 6, now with a writing prompt

Today we publish our first mini-episode, where we just talk a bit about what we were up to last week, with audio clips of our daily off-podcast voice memos (and the kittens!). We also share our first writing prompt exercise! Next week, we’ll have a quick critique session of our responses, and would love to have you share yours here, on Instagram, or by email. Send us a voice memo, and we will include it on the show!

Full show notes are here, but the prompt is:

Your boss calls you into their office and closes the door. What happens next?

October writing prompt: Your boss calls you into their office. What happens next?

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When the world gets in

We talk a lot about the importance of getting the writing done before the world gets in the way. As journalist and author Sigrun Davidsdottir says on this week’s podcast, “These early hours, they are worth gold.” Even if you’re not a morning person (we aren’t).

This week, it has been especially hard to get the writing done before the world gets in. There’s a lot coming at us, all the time. I live in the U.S., where we have had a decades-long problem with gun violence and domestic terrorism, and police violence, and systemic oppression, and climate change. Waking Monday morning to the news from Las Vegas definitely got in my head and heart, already broken wide open because bad things just keep coming. The most I have been able to hope for is 45 minutes right after waking up, when my mind is still foggy and my body slow, because after that, it’s time to start making phone calls to my senators and state governor to ask them what’s your plan? and the world — and the anger and horror and frustration — gets in. And that’s where I am right now.

The world doesn’t need another hot take, but it needs even less people being quiet.

A prayer is not a plan. We know this as writers — you can wish you were writing or think about writing or fantasize about being published, but unless you actually write, none of it does any good. Unless our leaders actually do something, none of their public “thoughts and prayers” do any good. It’s also clear that our leaders won’t do something until we force their hands.

So why was I talking about writing in the morning? Because it’s okay to protect your writing time. Writing makes us — I hope — more empathetic. More connected. More human. So protect your time before the world gets in so you’re ready to meet the world when it does. Protect your voice — so you can use it when its needed.


Some stuff to read

Why Mass Shootings Keep Happening (Esquire)

We Have to Stop Pretending We Can’t Do Anything About Gun Violence (Teen Vogue)

Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde review — prophetic and necessary (The Guardian)

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Episode 4 is up, and we talk identity

Episode 4 is live — this week is all about identity. How do you handle the dreaded question, “So, what do you do?” Also, whether or not you’re public about being a writer, the intersection of age and shame, and being ambitious while female. We also talk writing uniforms — keep an eye on Instagram this week, and share your writing outfit with us! Use #marginallypodcast or tag us (@marginallypodcast).

As usual, get show notes here, get the show on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever get your podcasts.

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