Archive for November 2009
What I said was,
“No, I don’t have time…. because the novel isn’t done yet.”
He went on to express surprise that I wasn’t as predictable as he thought. Hah! Thought he had >me< pegged, did he? Well.
Uh. Here I am, writing a blog post.
[It's rough to be so predictable. But I should have learned by now that the greatest kid in the world is pretty much always right.]
I think I’m about half way through the outline (although it’s hard to tell since its so badly in need of rejigging just now. The characters have been asserting themselves with some force.)
But I plan on working my fingers to the bone for the rest of the month and see how much I can get done. Hey, its the weekend, and I vow not to do another blog post (after this one) before December.
I will be back to blogging (guilt free) come December, but I will keep going on the novel until it’s done. Because this is what I REALLY want to do.
[Besides, I need to finish this one so I can start on the next one.]
During the month of November, should you find yourself in a coffee shop, restaurant, internet cafe, or really anywhere with electricity and WiFi, you may very well spot a clump of people furiously tapping away on laptops. If you look closely you are very likely to see a sign like this one.
This means you’ve stumbled on a group of NaNoWriMo writers.
1999 marked the beginning of NaNoWriMo. It all started with twenty-one people in San Francisco who wanted to write novels. It has grown to these proportions as reported via this NaNoWriMo tweet from Twitter:
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writer’s Month, has become an international event. Its quite simple really… if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, all you need do is head to the NaNoWriMo website and sign up. This makes you a participant. The next step is to write a 50,000 word novel before midnight on November 30th. If you succeed, you become a NaNoWriMo winner.
I first learned about NaNoWriMo from my sister-in-law Nienke, but I’ve never quite managed to make the time. Over the last year I’ve taken to blogging, and have rediscovered how important writing actually is to me. Since the frequency of my blog posts has been on the rise, and some of the longest have sit the 3,000 word range, it occurred to me that maybe my writing muscles were up to facing the NaNoWriMo challenge.
One of my problems is my attachment to my blogs. It is so easy to get sucked into email, or browsing, or even worse, writing a blog post. I just had to take the time to whip up my Remembrance Day post… except it ended up taking the better part of the daylight hours.
An issue that has been large in my life has been the fight to save a local natural space from being “surplussed” and developed.
Having written letters to the local papers and politicians as well as blogging about it, amazingly Victoria Glen Park was actually saved, I should at the very least be trumpeting the good news, but I’ve a pretty good idea how much time that will take.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo for me.
This is the birthday present I’m giving myself.
[Note: This is NOT a hint...
Too busy with NaNoWriMo to have time left for frivolities like birthdays.]
because time is of the essence for NaNoWriMo
The NaNoWriMo deal is that your 50,000 words must be written within in the 30 days of November. Prior preparation is allowed. It is perfectly acceptable to do things like character studies and outlining in advance, which would of course would be the clever way to do it. That wasn’t possible for me because of my late sign up, but I decided to give it a whirl anyway.
I was surprised to discover that NaNoWriMo does not simply involve locking oneself away from the world and writing the month away. There is a whole social aspect I knew nothing about. When you find your region you discover that there is an ML, or “Municipal Liaison”, who is the unpaid volunteer who serves as our fearless leader. The ML organizes and supervises the writers, the forums, and tries to keep everyone focused and motivated.
The ML organizes get togethers, mostly for Write-Ins but also there was a “getting to know you” party before NaNoWriMo began, and there is going to be a “half-way” party this week–with no writing allowed! My guess is that there will also be an “after” party in the fullness of time. The amazing thing is that the ML is also a participant, sacrificing writing time to do all of this great stuff for the other writers. Write-Ins are a way for local NaNoWriMo’s to gather together to write. Although at first blush it seems like an odd notion… a group of writers getting together in order to ignore one another while writing in the same geographic space, in fact it’s actually quite a good idea. So far I’ve only been to two, but I was amazed at how productive I was at both. Perhaps its that a whole roomful of writers are so caught up in their own stories, the room is a filled with writing energy.
I attended the very first Write-In at Whole Lot-a Gelata, just to see what it was like. Even though I didn’t have my outline written down, I had enough bits floating around in my head that I could do a few opening scene/character sketches. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the words flowed sitting in a room with a bunch of total strangers, all of whom were typing away in their own little worlds.
The NaNoWriMo web site is pretty extensive, with plenty of forums (and if the topic you want isn’t there you can jump in and create it. NaNoWriMo provides videos, and blogs, and chat rooms and pep talks… it is really rather amazing. The only thing about NaNoWriMo that I find fault with is that they have designated the people who succeed in writing 50,000 words “winners”. My problem with this is that the flip side would be that those who do not finish would be “losers”.
I would think that the participants themselves would know what they’ve gotten out of NaNoWriMo. If you’ve finished with the prescribed 50,000 words, but feel it is unreadable or un-editable, being told you are a winner will not change the fact that your experience was not successful. By the same token, if you’ve only managed 25,000 words by the end, if you’ve learned something important, like how to outline, or that it is possible to write as many a s 25,000 words in the space of a month, you may well feel like a “winner” until told otherwise. I find it a little bit sad that this distinction is drawn, because NaNoWriMo can be a great experience for different people in many different ways. Writers of all people ought to know that creativity doesn’t fit in a box marked “one size fits all”.
From flitting about in the various forums, I’ve discovered a few interesting websites put up by other NaNoWriMo participants. Since it is so tempting to wander through forums and check out websites, I’m trying to limit myself. I thought I’d just share these two blogs which I found a lot of fun. I’ve only read bits of them, but they’re intriguing enough that I’ve book marked these so that I can pop round and read them at my leisure after NaNoWriMo is done.
“Why do you keep giving him such silly names,” Lauretta asked, raising one eyebrow at me.
“Why do you?” I countered.
I couldn’t say much to that, so I went with the standard, “I’m Evil; I can do whatever I want.”
From the sidebar:
“First drafts are often bad. Repeat after me: Bad bad bad. Embrace the bad.”
NaNoWriMo has been great for me. I finally got the outline done, and now I’m ahead of the game, beyond the half way word count, so I can make this blog post. My novel may yet undergo great alterations between now and the end, and I have a suspicion that it will take rather more than 50,000 to finish, since I’m not as far along the outline as I probably should be. But that’s O.K. I can always edit it into good order in December.
What NaNoWriMo has done is provide me with a deadline, and help me remember how to find a focus. The best thing that NaNoWriMo has done for me is provide impetus. It’s helped me carve out a place in my life where I can get back into the writing I love. It’s providing support and reminding me of how great it is to have other writers to consort with. And the writing itself is going just fine.
Thank you NaNoWriMo.
note: no time to proof this… sleep is a bigger priority just now. Please comment or email me about typos & I’ll fix them later
In Canada we celebrate Remembrance Day, on the Eleventh Day, of the eleventh month. Gathering together in churchyards, schools, or war memorials, we hear stories of Canadian sacrifice, and listen as a lone trumpet plays “Taps”. If all goes well the last haunting note dies out as the clock ticks over to the eleventh minute, when we bow our heads for two minutes of silence and reflection.
This is a tradition which began with the formal conclusion of “The War to End All Wars” on November 11th, 1918, on Armistice Day.
During that terrible modern war, in 1915 Canadian Doctor John McCrae wrote what I believe to be the single most powerful piece of anti-war poetry ever written.
I doubt I am the only one whose eyes tear up just thinking the words of the first line of his poem,
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
between the crosses row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Sadly, humankind has not yet managed to do away with war. The simple words of this immortal poem, so eloquently expressed by this sad and demoralized front line doctor, have permeated the Canadian consciousness.
Part of the poem was printed on the Canadian ten dollar bill a few years back, then in 2004 the poppy as the Canadian symbol of Remembrance was commemorated on a quarter.
My first consciousness of the horrors of war was a visit to an interactive-museum in a train car I visited as a child during Canada’s Centennial year. I remember:
walking through the recreated World War I battlefield… sand bags… explosions…
The photographs, lighting and sound effects made a vivid impression on me that is still with to this day. To educate my own child we’ve visited the extraordinary McCrae House museum in Guelph.
I’ve watched movies, read fiction and poetry, as well as many historical accounts that have left me convinced that war is something to be avoided if at all possible. I am well aware that I’m incredibly lucky because I’ve never been up close and personal with war. But although I’ve never lost a loved one to war, I know those who have not been so fortunate. At the same time I have been humbled knowing my life has been lived in freedom paid for with Canadian blood.
Every year of my adult life I have made a point of putting money in the little Canadian Legion box for a poppy at least once every November, even knowing there are ranks of poppies at home in my drawer. I’ve worn a poppy every year. Until now.
The perversion of the concept of “Copyright” has spread to the Canadian Legion.
I am simply appalled by the Canadian Legion’s dreadful behavior. It seems that they believe they “own” all rights to the use of the poppy, and have been heaving their prodigious legal might
– fueled by all of those donations we’ve all made to their “worthy cause” over the years–
against anyone who dares appropriate what they believe to be their exclusive symbol.
It incenses me when I read about the Canadian Legion mustering their forces against:
It is pretty clear that they are not even in the right, since the first instance of the poppy as a symbol was initiated by an American YMCA worker who encouraged the American Legion to adopt it as a symbol (before the Canadian Legion did), and the poppy design currently used internationally is based on the work –the Intellectual Property of– a French woman. The white poppy of peace is something different, and it too dates back a ways to 1930′s England. The fact that the Canadian Legion copied everyone else in adopting the red poppy symbol is the only claim that the Canadian Legion can reasonably make.
But they used their power to stop a white poppy campaign anyway… because they could. The fledgling Canadian peace movement changed their symbol, and are now known as the White Peace Dove Campaign. Their only crime was the lack of a budget to stand against the Canadian Legion blitzkrieg. I find it disgusting that my donations to the Canadian Legion have made it possible to trample other Canadians purely by intimidation.
Of course the Canadian Legion has also attempted to block the British Peace Pledge Union from distributing white poppies in Canada.
What on earth is happening in the world?
The madness has been escalating as corporations and organizations seek to take ownership of things that they have no real right to. Years ago I remember thinking how absurd it was that Toys “Я” Us laid claim to the letter “R”. Apparently they made a case for their creative use of their backward letter “R” to represent the word “are”. It seems incredible that any court would foolishly allow any corporation exclusive rights to a letter of the alphabet in current use, let alone as a symbol for a common word in our language.
Whether or not that was the intent, Toys “Я” Us has ever after aimed their legal juggernaut at any company daring to use the letter “R” — pointing in any direction– as a word ever since. “Right” doesn’t come into it. Without deep pockets and a crack legal team, no one can stand up to an onslaught by Toys “Я” Us.
And amazingly enough Toys “Я” Us hasn’t yet sued Sesame Street for creating songs and videos about the Letter “R” Actually I wonder why they aren’t bringing their corporate might to bear against all the internet chat room uses of the letter “R” in place of the word. Or the even more common usage in the face of the Twitter and Identi.ca 140 character limit imposition? Maybe Toys “Я” Us are just biding their time, adding up all the infringements.
Makes you wonder why the YMCA hasn’t sewn up the rights to the letter “Y”. Or wonder which University will be first to lay claim to ownership of the letter “U”.
it isn’t the same thing at all
Letters of the alphabet are actually human constructs, invented symbols. If you had actually invented a letter of the alphabet you would actually have reasonable grounds to copyright the letter.
[Of course if you started charging royalties every time your letter was used, your letter would rapidly fall out of favour.]
But a poppy? A poppy is a living thing, a flower, part of a plant that grows in the ground. Poppies have been in existence long before the Canadian Legion. The Canadian legion didn’t invent poppies. And in fact the poppies mentioned in Dr. McCrae’s poem were wildflowers growing free, planted by no one, owned by no one. Under no copyright. Why should the Canadian Legion have any special claim to the poppy?
If you look at the Canadian Legion’s website it is pretty clear that they feel perfectly justified in appropriating Doctor McCrae’s story and his powerful contribution to the sum of all knowledge. The Legion makes no secret that they have adopted the poppy as a symbol because of Dr. McCrae’s poetry, which he so freely gifted to the world. If the poppy as a Remembrance Day Symbol is anyone’s intellectual property it would be the two YMCA workers responsible for its implementation, one from France, one from the US. (Note: Neither was Canadian.)
But because the Canadian Legion has very deep pockets they are more than willing to go to war on other Canadians daring to “poach” from what they perceive to be their private preserve, the symbol of a poppy. The Canadian Legion has proven themselves willing to abuse their power to intimidate anyone they feel is competition. The reason the Canadian Legion has such deep pockets because of Canadian largesse.
The Canadian Legion’s “war chest” is courtesy of ordinary people like you and me, shelling out for their little poppy pins. Supposedly they don’t “charge” for the pins, it has always been a donation box. The idea is of course that anyone can have one gratis if you can’t afford to donate, but we all put in as much as we can spare, and many of us have happily put in more. I don’t know about you but its been a long time since I’ve put anything lower than a five dollar bill in one of those boxes. (I’d be surprised if stamping out a poppy pins costs more than a penny or two.) And when you think about the fact that the pins seem designed to work free of your jacket, I’ve found myself making multiple donations pretty much every year. And I didn’t mind because I was suffering under the belief that it was in good cause.
It would have never have occurred to me that The Canadian Legion would use money I had donated to attempt to stifle a fledgling peace movement.
Still less would I have been able to imagine that the Canadian Legion would spend money I donated to actively stifle fundraising efforts intended to benefit the families of veterans.
Or that the Canadian Legion would squander my donations in the petty power play which blocked the Highway of Heroes pins.
Obviously the Canadian Legion is more interested in securing their own little fiefdom by engaging in intimidation and oppression of Canadians than in doing good. Perhaps they are afraid that peace will put them out of business. I don’t know, nor do I care. One thing’s for sure, they certainly have too much money at their disposal.
All I can do is write about my anger in my little blog and cease supporting an institution which seems bent on doing damage to the freedoms so many Canadians have fought and died for.
The Canadian Legion has betrayed my trust. I regret every dime I’ve given them over the years, and they’ll never again receive so much as a poppy quarter from me.
What gives them the right?
It is clear that the only thing that Doctor McCrae was trying to promote with his little poem was peace. Somehow I doubt that the good Doctor would have ever approved of the Canadian Legion’s corruption of his imagery, and worse their perversion of his poppy symbol as an instrument of oppression.
Like most people, I don’t have time to read everything, but I’d like to thank M. Spector for this excellent blog post which opened my eyes to this issue http://www.rabble.ca/babble/canadian-politics/memetics-and-semiotics-poppy
[Note: My intent was that my first November blog post would deal with my NaNoWriMo participation, but I just haven't been able to get this out of my head today-- LLR]