NaNoWriMo Because I Hang Out with Crazy People

Lest I feel that dedicating this year to earning a “Novel Writing Certificate” is small potatoes…

Because it’s not enough to spend Tuesday and Saturday mornings driving in traffic for an hour in order to diagram plot points and decide whether my historical protagonist likes her coffee black or with a smidge of stevia…

Because meeting total strangers for the sole purpose of discovering that they are master writers and I am a kindergartner wielding a purple crayon…

They gotta throw “National Novel Writing Month” on top of it.

Did you know that novelists – the guys doing the real deal – have three to four books somewhere in progress while simultaneously coming up with new book ideas to pitch to publishers and they still teach classes, hold workshops, and market like crazy to make the money happen?

Do you know how much work it is to maintain a business social media, website, and amazon presence? No, you don’t, because if you’re smart you’ve hired me to do it for you. I run a freelance writing business on the side to pay for my obsession. That puts me one step closer to crazy town than I thought.

Me: “Don’t you think attempting to write a brand new novel in a single month will distract me from the one I’ve been trying to write for the last three years?”

Teacher/Author: “I highly recommend NaNoWriMo. Especially if you have a hard time with perfectionism.”

Me: “Who, me? Don’t be ridiculous preposterous silly.”

Teacher/Evil Person: “The idea here is that in one month, you sit down and make 50,000 words. That’s only 1,666.66666 words a day. Easy peasy. As long as you don’t edit while you write.”

Me: “But that’s what people love me for pay me to do.”

Teacher/Gastroenterologist: “You can’t keep a good steady outgo if you’re blocking with analytics. You have to relax. Just enjoy the word vomit.”

Me: Simultaneously whimpering and signing up online. My code name is Jolie Guacamole.

If you clean your house before the cleaning lady arrives, you know exactly how I feel.

And if you know how I feel about vomit, you also know exactly how I feel.

Buckle up. You will still get regular blogs in November because I love you, but they will be made ahead of time and auto-post with updates on my progress.

If you have a completely random character, setting, villain, plot twist, vehicle, pet, name, or an especially exciting way to kill off boring side characters, give it to me right here in the comments! Then tune in next month and see how I wrote about it.

Better yet, sign up yourself and join me on the dark side. *evil laughter*

Phobias, Fears, and Flatulence

There are certain October activities that err on the side of dramatic. Anxious, shall we say. I know perfectly normal people who will give up their cold hard cash on purpose to get lost in a dark maze full of professional actors. A pumpkin is inadequate for their anxieties. They need chainsaws. Screaming. Running. And an exit sign.

My idea of a good October activity is to let the house go for the month. I have cobwebs in every corner, dead flies on the window sills, and dust an inch thick everywhere else. Squeaky doors, mysterious footprints down the hall, slimy potions in the fridge. I don’t like to brag, but I have a 3″ slug living in my shower right now. Some people pay good money for this level of authenticity.

But really, what is your idea of scary? What is your worst nightmare? Your darkest fear?

  1. Creepy Crawlers: spiders, mice, rats, bugs, snakes, cockroaches, worms
  2. Pokey Things: needles, vampires, , splinters, dentists, bees, ticks, Inigo Montoya
  3. Squishy Grossness: blood, vomit, gore, germs, full diapers, basically anything involving a toddler
  4. Big Booms: thunder, barking dogs, fireworks, Instant pots, stereo systems commandeered by your teenager
  5. Squeezy Spots: elevators, graveyards, cubicles, holes, slot canyons, Walmart on Black Friday
  6. Stranger Danger: clowns, aliens, mimes, every Disney character in a bobble-head costume even Winnie the Pooh
  7. Location-o-phobia: airplane, ocean, bridges, space, heights, shark-nados, onstage with Dr Phil
  8. Embarrassment: pushing the “Send” button too soon, raising your hand in a meeting, farting in yoga class

And what are your coping mechanisms?

If you’re afraid of the dark (achluophobia) and going to sleep (somniphobia) because there might be a monster under your bed (teraphobia) and the dust bunnies down there are just as scary (amathophobia), you should put the mattress flat on the floor. Where the dolls can find you (pediophobia).

PS: That doll thing is real. Ask me some day about my Grandma’s house.
PPS: And also my adult children just told me that watching Toy Story scarred them for life. Let’s add another phobia:

9. Badmomophobia: the reason your kids need therapy.

Zoppe: What’s in a Circus?

It isn’t every day you see a guy swinging through the air from a cable attached to his man-bun. But if you do, you’re either at a frat party or the Zoppe Circus.

Zoppe Circus, since 1842

In our continued quest to put a dent in our bucket list, Hubbs and I snagged tickets when a small, Italian family-run circus came to town. Believe it or not, neither of us have ever been to a circus before. Maybe it’s the idea of creepy clowns getting up in my personal space, or the sure understanding that, in case of fire, we’d be trapped like rats in a plastic casserole. My cynical side questioned whether a generation of smartphone junkies would be impressed with real-life danger. Or if, in an age where most circus icons have become politically incorrect, there was anything fun or fascinating left in the tent.

We followed the crowds into the bleachers: dubious affairs made of planks strapped together with rope. An elderly couple sat on the top row, the lady holding a balloon animal and the gentleman enjoying his cotton candy, oblivious to their peril. They either knew what they were doing or no longer cared. So we sat at the very top, too. The show began.

Arial acrobatics, cantering horse tricks, jugglers, accordions. And a clown called Nino. He pulled people from the audience with the single purpose of public humiliation. Did you cry in McDonalds when Donald er, Ronald came around handing out hugs? Yeah.

Nino was all fun and games until the intermission. He disappeared into the crowds and I was just starting to relax when he materialized in front of our seats with a tray full of popcorn, frowning right at me. He ascended, speaking clown words, and gesturing wildly.

Who wore heels to the circus? That’s right. I did. I reached down for my secret weapon when the man next to me stood up and reached for Nino. “Get him!” I thought, ducking.

But the man was shaking Nino’s hand and speaking more clown words and I was about to bolt for the exit when he turned to me and said in perfectly good King’s English, “We know him, we follow his act. Want some popcorn?”

Nino smiled and offered me the tray. There was both challenge and laughter in his eyes, and something familiar that I couldn’t quite identify. I thought about it as I munched my way through the rest of the show.

Who runs away and joins the circus? I considered the qualifications:

Can you touch your toes?

Do you look good upside down in spandex and could you shoot a bow and arrow with your toes if you had to?

Are you afraid of heights?

Can you flip a pancake or toss a pizza?

Are you okay with being a human piñata?

Can you balance school, work, home, and clowns on a regular basis while everyone is watching?

It was a startling moment when I realized that all of my answers to these questions were “Yes”! Turns out, I own a circus. I have five monkeys. I still work for peanuts. And Nino knows it.

The evening ended with a standing ovation. The performances were fun, but their demonstration of solid teamwork, cooperative hustle, and unflinching trust earned my respect. It gave me hope that – with a lifetime of practice – even my family circus can do it. Bravissimo!