I am petrified of the dentist.

Yes, I’m in my mid-twenties, yes, I’m planning to go hike alone in the woods for six months, yes, I rode horses and sang in public and fell down the stairs when I was little and kicked them instead of crying.

But one of my biggest fears is the dentist. Which is a little odd, because I am the most self-conscious about my teeth and smile. The dentist ought to be my best friend. If only my teeth were better, and healthier. But despite my teeth being my biggest area of body image concern, I don’t take very good care of them.

Actually, last week was the first time I even used my own dental insurance, which I’ve had for three years now. So it had been longer than that since my last visit. I’m not good at sticking with habits. I go through phases of flossing every day with care, and just as suddenly, I stop. I crawl into bed and don’t get out to brush some nights. So forget about flossing.

So one day, with a lot of support from my boyfriend and a stroke of courage, I went into the dentist office I’d walked by several times on my way to work. I stood waiting for the couple in front of me to finish, wishing for a paper bag to breathe into. I told you, I am petrified to point of unreasonableness. I forced myself to be this “adult” word I hear so much about, and stayed. With wringing hands, I walked to the counter.

“Hi,” I coughed out. “I need to make an appointment.”

“Okay, have you been here before?”

“No, I…I…I haven’t been to a dentist in a very long time. I’m terrified. But I need to fix my teeth.”

Actually, this all made me so nervous that this post is likely the first my parents are hearing about it at all, and I am very close with my parents.

My first appointment actually went really well. I like my new dentist a lot. Bedside manner was great, and he actually recognized me from the building I used to live in (apparently he lived there too, still does). I told him I was nervous, he told me not to be. He talked about things besides my teeth, then eased into my issues. He does this – he talks about small details, then your teeth, then back to not-teeth. He and his tech are a great team. He cleaned my teeth himself that time, and it barely hurt (I am used to bleeding, terrible pain and techs on seemingly bad days – oops, got your gum). Except for those wing things for the X-rays. I have never done well with those. They had to go down a size, since I couldn’t close my mouth down on the first ones.

This week consisted of not one but two appointments to fill cavities. I had a lot. I had more than even I expected. So Monday, they numbed the right side of my face and drilled away for a good long while. Today, they numbed the left side of my face and drilled away for a bit longer. Pretty much my jaw has been in some form of pain all week. My right side is still sensitive, so I bought Sensodyne and yogurt tonight.

This post was going to be better. Something about thanking dentists. How bedside manner can make such a difference. How at ease I was compared to what I recall. Blessings on anyone who actually wants to be a dentist. I suppose I should have written it last week, as this week has been an utter week from hell. I think it’s been like that for a lot of people. Pre-holiday stresses? Travel? Work? You name it.

I get to see family in less than 24 hours. And my boyfriend. I won’t have as much time off as I’d hoped (and am at a pretty low point mentally for that), but I will get to see them. And that’s all I’ve got to hold on to now. Let shit-hell-week be over.

Anyway. Face your fears. Go to the dentist. Don’t ever, ever put it off for this long if you can afford the visits. It will be worse for you the longer you’re in denial. Trust me. I know.

I returned to my apartment from a lovely stay with my parents and boyfriend, and discovered a letter from The Gambia. The boy I am sponsoring had written back! For those playing catchup (I wrote about this briefly awhile ago), I am sponsoring a boy named Nfally from The Gambia. He is seven. This letter was written/translated for the family by someone at the Darsilami Social Service Centre in late October:

Nfally Jatta and his entire family are very happy to hear about the news that Nfally have picked up a sponsor and he says that he really appreciate your sponsorship.

Nfally was born on the 27 of March in the year 2006. He live in a village called Darsilami near the boarder [sic] line of [Casamance] region.

Nfally is staying with his both parents and have two sisters.

Nfally’s parents are farmers and they basically relies on seasonal farming which cannot meet their living and also the family enjoys two meals daily due to their condition.

Nfally Jatta is a Jola by tribe and a Muslim by religion. Nfally is a very quite [sic] boy who like playing soccer with his friends.

The family says they beg to stop here till another good time. May God the Almighty continue to bless you and your family bye.

It is heartwarming just to receive a letter at all, and part of why I like this program. I will write something back this week. As an extra treat, Nfally also included a drawing for me. So sweet.

I did it! I just won National Novel Writing Month – 50,000 words in…wait for it…only 29 days!

Excuse me while I go dance on air.

Numbers are in and validated at:

winner 2013

 

Thanks to everyone who helped me get there!!!

It’s Day 18, and I won’t be writing tonight. I am ahead! And exhausted. But look, see!

Night of Writing Dangerously

This weekend, I attended an all-night affair we lovingly call “Night of Writing Dangerously” – an event which is always put on in San Francisco, OLL HQ. A group decided to make our own here in northern Virginia, and at the last minute, secured a free space where we could spend the night. I coordinated to get a ride to the library that was hosting us, and arrived around 1pm. We scattered around the library until 4, when we got one of the meeting rooms. At 5, the library closed and the madness began. People brought lots of food to share, a coffee machine, sleeping bags and blankets, copious amount of caffeine, and lots of energy. At peak, we had about 30 people there! Everyone cheered when someone yelled out a milestone:

25,000!!! WOOO

60,000!!! WOOO

They finally kissed!!! WOOO

The giggles came and went several times. We had periods of loud talking and laughter and jokes, and then suddenly all would go quiet as people refocused on their novels and characters. I was there 21 hours, and slept just an hour and a half, at the very end, the next morning. The library bought us pizza! And juice and donuts for the morning. Seriously, they rocked it. They were the greatest hosts, which is saying something: have you ever been in the same room as 30 frantic novelists?

My Novel Updates

As for me, I trudged through and managed to write 10,000 words! So now I’m up to 35,000, which means I have just 15,000 left. So weird. I don’t think 50,000 will be the end of my novel, which is strange and exciting. My last novel I wrote ended pretty close to 50,000, and so I’m excited that this one is so sustaining. I’m also excited because I can feel myself growing as a fiction writer. My characters have stepped out of the pages and faced me head on (one even left). When they discover a will of their own, when they make decisions you didn’t make for them? It’s an incredible feeling (and also wildly disconcerting). Two major things happened with my characters and their wills. One, my villain, put up a fight to my wicked plans for him, and there were hours when I thought he wouldn’t do what I wanted him to. That he wouldn’t become the villain I’d planned him to be. I mean, villains never think of themselves as villains, right? As I increased his rage, he started yelling – but at me. And all of a sudden I thought: he’s not going to do it. It was weird, to get that sense. I have a plan to wrangle him into at least keeping part of my plot – the one I spent days outlining, including several concerning him. Hours went by, and I pushed this problem out. Then, I flipped back to my “present-day” setting and wrote a chapter – and at the end of it, one of my characters told me he was not coming back from the trip I sent him on. He was gone. And he didn’t even have the decency to tell me beforehand! And he’s generally a good guy. It was shocking, really, to realize that. From afar – and I do mean afar – he waved and said “bye.” Come on!

Oh the thrills and woes of writing. I am having so much fun!

I am now 5 days into the madness. I don’t have much time for anything but writing – and even this post is taking precious noveling time away (or food, or sleep, or other sanity times). But so far, I’m ahead of where I need to be, which is exciting, since I’ve never been able to do that yet in my three years of trying this. Check it:

I am not certain that this trend will continue, but thanks to awesome pep talks like the one today from Catherynne Valente, it might. It is certainly nice to have the padding. Today I barely made it past the 1,667 requirement before packing up my things. I enjoy writing with other writers – the energy is infectious (and there’s the peer pressure and word sprints, too, of course, which help tremendously). 

Also I’d like to point out to all y’all that NPR has an article about National Novel Writing Month. Uh-huh. Legit. They even did one last year, too. We’re crazy, but there are a lot of us. People who don’t do NaNoWriMo are always stunned when I tell them how many novelists there are currently typing away furiously for a month. As of this writing, this moment, there are 280,570.

Uh, yeah, so speaking of….

I will be pretty quiet this month. I’m trying to post daily updates on the fun new meter off to the right, on that nifty sidebar, so check in there for my latest. Cool? Cool. Peace out. Happy writing.

10 days ago, in a rather silly mood, I gave you a peek into the world of National Novel Month 2013 and roughly what’s in store for me. Much has changed since then, including the major points of my plot. My muse is much happier now, even if it’s taking a turn into fantasy, something I never thought I’d do.

But that is actually nothing compared to my excitement over this:

My dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

Repeat: my dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

I can’t even – I’m so excited! SO EXCITED, I tell you. This is awesome because, well, dad. But also, he is an incredible writer. He is king of his industry, and is editor and co-owner of a monthly magazine which is rocking the competition like whoa. I’ve done NaNo for two years; this will be my third attempt (and hopefully second win!). His plan is to do lots of flash fiction pieces to total 50,000 words throughout November. Dad who beat up cancer last year and threw a party.

😀

Okay, also my plot. You remember that whole thing about ghost lessons? Yeah, that’s still there but majorly in the background. Here is my (evidently fantasy) plot as of now: In the 17th century, Richard was in love with Cassandra Hart, but despite everything he did for her, she never loved him back. She married Francis instead, and this made him angry. He appeared at their wedding, threatening they would rue the day etc., before taking a blade and stabbing himself through the heart. He stayed on earth as a ghost, and then underwent the requirements for becoming a Voleruh and took on the name Reshkhi. Voleruhs are evil creatures of the undead that steal ghost’s souls. Reshkhi has hunted the Hart family for centuries, with the desire to rip out the female Harts’ souls. Thanks to protection left by Cassandra, Jillian’s and Lea’s ancestor, he was unable to destroy them. Now, the youngest Hart, Jillian, has died at age 17, and her mother, Lea, has been trying to protect her from Reshkhi. Lea died one year ago, and when she did, the protection was broken. Now, Reshkhi is determined to take the soul of Lea’s daughter, Jillian.

* For the record, I’m aware of the “isn’t a ghost a soul?” issue and my comeback is: ghost = spirit; soul = soul. So hah.

It’s a work in progress. I had to create a creature – a Voleruh – which seemed to put me firmly in the fantastic. Which is SO weird. But whatever, let’s run with it, right? Don’t confuse my startled-ness with disliking fantasy; on the contrary it’s one of my favorite genres to read. But it’s also a lot of work and I admit I’m pretty nervous. Still, it’s an easier switch, as I’m not building worlds or races or languages a la Tolkien.

None of that is really important.

My dad is doing NaNoWriMo with me!

I have it! A plot!

Welcome, everyone, to this year’s edition of National Novel Writing Month. Joining me this morning is writer S. S has worked on several novels in the past, one of which, Light on the Sea, is going to be published next year. This year, she’s at it again. Her method to some seems questionable at best, and so I’ve asked her in to discuss this year’s plans.

Me: Now, S, is your method this year any different than in previous years?

S: No, it’s generally the same. It’s a little rough to be sure, but it has definite success rates.

Me: Success rates you yourself will soon see, so I hear.

S: Yes! I’m very excited. I’ve wanted to publish a book since I was little, and suddenly it’s turning into a reality. I couldn’t be happier. And this year’s NaNoWriMo is going to be great, too, I can feel it.

Me: This year’s – what? Could you explain to our audience?

S: Oh! Absolutely. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a competition of sorts where you write 50,000 words of a new novel in only the month of November. It’s a great way to get people writing, laughing, and really learning about their own creativity. You can plan all you want before November, but you can’t start any actual writing until 12:01am on November 1st.

Me: That sounds like a fun goal. But it also sounds exhausting.

S: It is [she says with a grin]. It’s nutty. But the first one I ever did is Light on the Sea, so it has some potential. Lots of authors have been published through NaNoWriMo. I’m making my calendar for word count, and also food, before it starts.

Me: I guess we should let you get back to planning out this tough course. But before you go, would you tell our listeners and readers what this year’s novel is about?

S: Good timing, I just nailed it down this week. This year I’m diving into the world of ghosts: Jillian Truell has just died. She sets about walking through walls, frightening the living, and moving objects around a room – except, she can’t do any of it. Confused, hurt, and still dead, she takes up residence in an abandoned house she names “The Temple.” It’s there she meets Barnabus Bugby, a ghost older in both years and death day – 1774. With his help, she learns all the skills to being a ghost. But is it enough? Read that with a really intense movie voice and you’ll get the gist. It’s also the first time I’ll be trying to write in the first person, so it’s sure to be an adventure.

Me: Thank you so much, S. Are there any ways people can support your admittedly –  uh, intense – endeavor?

S: There is, actually. See, NaNoWriMo is put on by a non-profit called the Office of Lights and Letters. You can go to this site and donate. Your donation helps bring free creative writing programs to more than 500,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, and 600 libraries.

Me: Thank you so much for taking the time out of planning to talk with me today, and best of luck!

~~~

Links:

NaNoWriMo: http://nanowrimo.org

Donation Page: http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=272579