If something is actually hilarious, then say that. Say it’s hilarious.

If it’s not truly hilarious, don’t say it’s “sort of hilarious.” This may be my new pet peeve, because I believe that “sort of hilarious” is something we already have a perfectly good word for: “funny.”

I’m all for synonyms and fancy turns of phrase.

Turn of phrases? Turns of phrases? Fuck it. Expressions.

I’m a fan of colorful expressions.

But “sort of hilarious” is lazy and it makes me angry.

It’s akin to “sort of pregnant” isn’t it?

It’s entirely possible I need to lay off the coffee a bit.

AB FAB 012, originally uploaded by kevin wofford and made available under a Creative Commons license. This image is the 1st one I found when I went looking for ab fab images. Perfect.

I’m not a morning person.

That is an understatement like few others.

If we have cocktails in the evening I have to make sure the glasses are emptied of any melting ice and put in the sink. This is so I don’t grab one the next morning before coffee, blearily note that it is a glass and contains liquid, and proceed to wash down my vitamins with diluted vodka at 8 a.m.

That is a maneuver Husband has come to call AbFabbing.

I was concerned about this.

Then I thought to myself, “Fuck it. I’m a writer.”

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. What’s that? You ask. Here’s a short and sweet answer:

Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.

I wanted to construct a mighty post about some of the inspiring women who are doing great science and/or ably communicating about science online. I also wanted to get my homework done before class tomorrow. Nothing I could have written would come close to the epic post that Ed Yong (Not Rocket Science) has written.

“Happy Ada Lovelace Day – a celebration of women science writers”

I’m taking a slightly different tack. I’m sharing the names of women who tell stories – science writers whose work I admire. (If anyone’s wondering, here’s the intensely scientific method I used to compile the list: I sat down, wrote names, and stopped when I got to 15) Each name is accompanied with a brief reason why I think they’re awesome and some links to past work. And as I’ve said before, this is not a list of top female science writers; this is an all-female list of top science writers.

[go read the whole post and check out the writers he’s highlighted.]


Update: I edited the grammatical errors that you’ve made clear a “real writer” wouldn’t make and clarified a point. Yikes, but a lot of WriMo’s are crazily over-sensitive. How about leaving comments instead of sending email? More fun for everyone, don’t you think?

I think NaNoWriMo is a fine and wonderful thing and I’ve participated and won a whole bunch of times.

A few years ago, I “won” twice. I had a lot of time on my hands that November.

I won’t ever say that my participation has ever been a waste of time. I’ve never used anything I’ve written for it any productive way, most of it is junk and never has the quality of anything I keep working on.

This year, however, is another story. This year – like last – NaNoWriMo is a distraction from the writing I want to get done, and that defeats the purpose of the whole enterprise.

I was thinking these vaguely heretical thoughts when I came across Laura Miller’s “Better yet, DON’T write that novel: Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy” at Salon.

NaNoWriMo was started back in 1999 as a motivational stunt for a small group of writer friends. It’s since become a nonprofit organization with staff, sponsors, a fundraising gala and, last year, nearly 120,000 contestants. Participants agree to start and complete a novel of 50,000 words or more during the month of November. To “win,” all you have do is meet that goal, however wretched the result. Last year’s NaNoWriMo had 21,683 such winners.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo seems laudable enough. Above all, it fosters the habit of writing every single day, the closest thing to a universally prescribed strategy for eventually producing a book. NaNoWriMo spurs aspiring authors to conquer their inner critics and blow past blocks. Only by producing really, really bad first drafts can many writers move on to the practice that results in decent work: revision.

I think there are lots of reasons to do NaNoWriMo that extend far beyond just the act of writing and I think it’s a useful creative exercise for non-fiction writing Capital-C Creatives to spend time on “creative cross-training” activities like this.

I think NaNoWriMo has been very useful to myself and other writers for getting us out of old ruts, giving projects under revision a chance to rest, and even getting us out of the house on occasion. I don’t in any way believe that “real” writers don’t do NaNoWriMo anymore than I believe that “real” artists shouldn’t participate in Artomatic or “real” actors didn’t guest-star on the Love Boat.

Wait. What? Let’s skip over that last one and get back on-point.

Miller didn’t inspire me to quit, but her argument certainly informed my decision. Plus, her post gave me something to link to so I could lucidly blog about why I was quitting. I didn’t want my writing buddies to feel abandoned or to think I’m dismissive of their efforts, because I’m not. I’ll happily join them for a write-ins, but I’m not going to be focused on a NaNoWriMo project while I do.

And that’s okay.

Right? That’s okay, right?

It feels a bit wrong to quit. Not as wrong as when the writers of the Love Boat decided that the new cruise director character should be Julie McCoy’s sister instead of just creating a new character with a new backstory when Lauren Tewes went to rehab.

I don’t know if that was technically wrong, maybe it was just fucking stupid.


I spend a lot of time researching and writing. NaNoWriMo is eating up my knitting and reading time, and a writer who doesn’t read is some kinda blood-sucking freak, in my opinion. If I didn’t write the other 11 months out of the year I might think this is a small price to pay, but I do and it’s not.

Miller’s piece first came to my attention because frantic WriMo’s were taking it as an inditement of NaNoWriMo – an accusation that it’s having a deleterious effect on the amount of novel-reading the general population does. I don’t agree with that part, but I do agree that writers are going to write anyway and maybe this event isn’t for them every time.

So I’m not worried about all the books that won’t get written if a hundred thousand people with a nagging but unfulfilled ambition to Be a Writer lack the necessary motivation to get the job done. I see no reason to cheer them on. Writers are, in fact, hellishly persistent; they will go on writing despite overwhelming evidence of public indifference and (in many cases) of their own lack of ability or anything especially interesting to say. Writers have a reputation for being tormented by their lot, probably because they’re always moaning so loudly about how hard it is, but it’s the readers who are fragile, a truly endangered species. They don’t make a big stink about how underappreciated they are; like Tinkerbell or any other disbelieved-in fairy, they just fade away.

Rather than squandering our applause on writers — who, let’s face it, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not — why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there’s not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there’s no one left to read it.

I actually poked around the NaNoWriMo site to see if I could delete my participant information for 2010, but the site is bogged down right now and it wasn’t readily apparent to me. Plus, I do have that stubborn “never say never” thing, so I might decide on November 25th to finish my abandoned project after all. I’m 10% done, after all. Wouldn’t want to waste those words!

To my writing buddies I say this: keep writing. I applaud your efforts and I think you have as many reasons to participate as there are “Captain Stubing bald jokes” in your typical episode of the Love Boat.

For me, there’s a primary reason not to do NaNoWriMo this year: I’ve got shit to do.

I have loads of genuinely important things to do. I also have some severe tendon pain right now and no desire to do anything but sit and stare at my year of mixtapes like it’s the most profound thing I’ve ever read. Then, I read a book, which involves minimal use of my hands. The side effects drugs to fix one thing harm another, namely tendons. Poor tendons, they were so happy before. Life is hilarious.

Then I did some whining to Dr. Birdcage about how slowly my NaNoWriMo novel, tentatively titled The Art Show, is coming along. It’s coming along slowly, partially because I haven’t been writing. Mostly because I haven’t been writing. Fine. Entirely because I haven’t been writing. I wrote 1200 words on day 1 and wandered off. When I picked up my laptop this afternoon I typed a couple of sentences because I realized my main character had just summoned demons to eat the other characters, or the annoying ones anyway, so I strongly believe things are looking up. Still, things will not look up entirely until someone, someone who resembles me, starts typing.

Don’t know why this got stuck in the drafts file – maybe I was going to obsess over the introduction to the quotation for a while?

I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance.

-Truman Capote

via Michele, via Cajun Boy in the City

Are you one of the many people I told that I’d given up on my National Novel Writing Month novel? I was mistaken.

NaNoWriMo winner 2008

NaNoWriMo winner 2008

So impressed with my brilliance you don’t know what to do with yourself?* Hop on over to the NaNoWriMo site and make a donation or buy swag to support their amazing literacy programs. Don’t you want to be able to self-righteously explain at those interminable holiday cocktail parties that you’re supporting this amazing Young Writer’s program? Plus, tax deductible.

At any rate, time for peppermint tea and pumpkin spice cake. If I can get into the kitchen – we’ve been watching the 1st season of Pushing Daisies on DVD and the Iron Chef was overcome with the need to bake pies. It’s pretty scary in there. Be glad you missed the obsessing over where I’d put his pastry cloth. Seriously.

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