At the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
Writing this year’s NaNoWriMo novel was probably one of the most difficult novels I’ve written. Originally, I had challenged myself to write a historical fantasy novel by the seat of my pants, but after Day 1, I knew that was pretty much a disaster. Unless I had a Ph.D. in Venetian history (which I obviously don’t), that novel was not going to happen this year without me taking time out to do some research.
So on Day 2, I scrapped that idea and decided to do an urban fantasy set in San Diego. Theoretically it would be a no brainer. It would be set in present day in a place that I live. I could throw in unicorns and dragons and magic–basically everything and the kitchen sink–without worrying about reality. No research necessary. Unfortunately, I had a different set of problems. I had no idea who my characters were, what they were going to do, and where everything was headed. Basically it was the writing equivalent of flying blind.
I definitely learned something from this experience. I cannot purely pants a story. My brain simply doesn’t work that way. Next year, I’m going back to planning.
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This year I also transferred regions as a municipal liaison. As the new person in town and put into a position of “authority” (I wasn’t really the authority of anything–mostly an organizer) there was definitely a feeling of uncertainty there on what the region would be expecting of me and what I would learn about the region. There was also already an established ML in San Diego so I had to be fairly careful that when I advocated new ideas, they didn’t trample on already rooted regional traditions.
Some of the ideas worked. Some didn’t. When things didn’t work, of course, I’m a bit annoyed at first. But I don’t dwell on those things too much. There’s always more new ideas to try out next year. I guess that’s the advantage of being an experienced ML with a laid back attitude–you don’t take things personally when things don’t pan out.
I already have some ideas on how to improve next year, attendance-wise at least. I also want to increase the diversity of the participation, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The wrimos I’ve met are all wonderful people. But I want more people, from all walks of life, to participate. Unfortunately, I think achieving this may take more effort than I have time for.
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Leading word sprints on @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter was theoretically a huge time sink, but I was able to multitask a bunch of things while doing that at the same time. This November, compared to previous years and Camp NaNo, I’ve noticed more people voicing their displeasure with certain prompts or prompt themes. During the last couple of days, I’ve also noticed some people constantly tweeting at the account in an attempt to get noticed. The rest of the month, people were tweeting questions that could have been answered readily at the Reference Desk on the NaNo forums. My guess is that either they were impatient, desperate for a retweet from the sprints account, or both. And then there were the people who kept retweeting every single thing on the sprints account and drowning out legitimate replies on the notifications feed.
But those are minor annoyances. I think what keeps people coming back to be sprint leaders is the high you get when you help someone achieve their word count goals. I managed to do at least one sprint session every day. How many of my prompts ended up in someone’s NaNo novel? Who knows. But it is kind of funny to speculate that perhaps one of my prompts ended up in a future best selling novel.
As I mentioned before, I’ll be doing a post on this year’s NaNoWriMo a little later. But meanwhile, here are the last of the sprints I did for week 4 on @NaNoWordSprints. You can also find the entire archive of all the prompts I put in my sprints here. (A fellow sprint leader wrote her NaNo novel based on many of the sprints posted on Twitter. You can find prompts from some of those other sprint leaders here.)
November 22, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
November 23, 9:00am-10:00am (UTC -8)
I Words, 3x
November 24, 12:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Old Science from Nature’s 50 & 100 Years Ago Feature
November 24, 11:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
November 25, 2:45pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
November 25, 6:16pm-8:30pm (UTC -8)
November 25, 10:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Beatles/Britney Spears/PDQ Bach Mashup
November 26, 12:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Laws of Thermodynamics
November 26, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: Wedding Crasher
November 27, 11:15am-3:00pm (UTC -8)
November 27, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
November 28, 9:00am-11:00am (UTC -8)
November 28, 1:00pm-3:00pm (UTC -8)
November 28, 11:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
November 29, 4:30am-6:00am (UTC -8)
Dark Fantasy Tropes Part 1
November 29, 7:40pm-9:00pm (UTC -8)
Dark Fantasy Tropes Part 2
November 29, 10:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
November 30, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
November 30, 6:16pm-7:00pm (UTC -8)
Last Minute Ghost Sprinting
December 1, 12:00am-3:00am (UTC -8)
Okay, I’m going to make this short and sweet since I’m still terribly behind. Maybe I’ll do a big NaNoWriMo post in December, after I’ve gotten some sleep.
Here’s the list of sprints I did for week 3 on @NaNoWordSprints:
November 15, 5:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)
November 15, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
Sushi and the City: A Choose Your Own Prompt Sprint Session
November 16, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
D Words 3x
November 17, 8:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
Meanings of Popular Names/Nancy Drew Titles/Mushrooms Mashup
November 18, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
San Diego Zoo 2015 Calendar
November 19, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
Consecutive E Words in the Dictionary
November 20, 10:30am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
November 20, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Dueling with the Inner Editor
November 21, 9:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: A Million Monkeys and Hamlet
Oh man. I’m totally behind and totally sleep deprived, but the sprinting must go on.
Here’s the list of sprints I did for week 2 on @NaNoWordSprints:
November 8, 12:00pm-2:30pm (UTC -8)
November 8, 11:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
November 9, 8:30am-10:00am (UTC -8)
Room in the House/Guinea Pig Breeds/Unusual Hobbies Mashup
November 9, 7:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
NaNoWriMo Sprints Generator: Bad Unicorns
November 10, 12:20pm-1:20pm (UTC -8)
November 10, 7:30pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
November 11, 1:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Things To Do During Your Lunch Break
November 11, 7:30pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
November 12, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: The Great Wombat
November 12, 10:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Books from the 1980s by Nora Roberts
November 13, 12:40pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
C Words 3x
November 13, 7:00pm-9:00pm (UTC -8)
Signage At the Living Room Coffeehouse
November 13, 11:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Minority Cat Breeds, Famous Pirate Ships of the Elizabethan Age, and Famous Romance Novels Mashup
November 14, 10:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
November 14, 8:30pm-10:30pm (UTC -8)
Yep, I’m doing @NaNoWordSprints again this year! As usual, I’m archiving all my prompts on this blog. Anything new this year? Well, some things were also hit or miss since I sometimes go totally out there for sprint themes. Apparently using the prompt “psycho” was very offensive to some people even though it was a prompt and I wasn’t accusing anyone of being a psycho (I also got the prompt from a list on TV Tropes so I didn’t make it up myself). The wombat sprints, however were very popular. I don’t identify myself at all when doing the wombat sprints, but I suspect I would gain a lot of Twitter followers if I did. Several people have declared me their favorite sprint leader during those sprints which is both flattering and a little humbling. I think there are some sprint leaders who do this far better than I do yet don’t get enough kudos…
Anyways, on to the week 1 prompts!
October 31, 5:00pm-8:00pm (UTC -8)
Things One Might Find In London
October 31, 11:00pm-3:00am (UTC -8)
November 1, 9:00pm-10:30pm (UTC -8)
November 2, 9:00am-11:00am (UTC -8)
Art At Lestat’s
November 2, 3:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -8)
What You Would Find At The San Diego Library
November 2, 9:30pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
November 3, 11:30am-12:30pm (UTC -8)
November 3, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Things That Are Called Wombat But Aren’t Really Wombats
November 4, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Ways To Cook Eggs
November 5, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Headlines of the Books and Arts Section of the Scientific Journal Nature
November 5, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
The Evil Overlord Sprints
November 6, 7:10am-9:30am (UTC -8)
Words Without Consonants
November 6, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
November 6, 3:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: Idioms
November 6, 7:00pm-9:30pm (UTC -8)
November 7, 3:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: Writer’s CPR
November 7, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Script Frenzy Plot Machine
The rest of my prompt archive can be found here.
Well, this is just a brief post to let everyone know that I’m still here. I’ve been busy “preparing” for NaNoWriMo, as in organizing writing events around the city. I haven’t really had much time to think about what I’m going to write, although at the time of this writing, I only have four more hours until November hits. I guess I’m going to write by the seat of my pants this year. I’m probably going to crash and burn, but hey, that’ll make a nice (virtual) bonfire. I’m also writing live on Google Docs here and doing @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter. So basically this upcoming month will just be work, NaNoWriMo, and sleep (maybe). Yeah, it seems totally crazy to do all this in one go, but as this is now my fourteenth year doing this, I can’t really imagine myself not doing this annual creative insanity.
The last time I went to a zoo was probably when I was between eleven and thirteen. It was the Nashville Zoo and I vaguely remember seeing the red pandas and some birds. This was also before the Nashville Zoo moved to its current location, so I have no idea how it looks now. And after that, going to a zoo had never been on the forefront of my mind for some reason.
I suppose one could argue that with my training as a microbiologist and molecular biologist, my view on biology had always been too small. With zoos, I would have to think bigger, way bigger. (Although my inner microbiologist was sometimes exasperated. On the bus tour, the guide mentioned that the koalas required bacteria to help them digest the poisonous eucalyptus leaves. And I thought, “You can’t leave it at that! What kind of bacteria is it?” The answer, after a brief search on Google Scholar, is that one of the bacterial species aiding in koala digestion is a special strain of Streptococcus bovis which the animal probably got after eating its mother’s feces*.)
Anyways, I would highly recommend coming to the San Diego Zoo if you have at least an entire day to spend there. Heck, I was there the entirety of its opening hours today and I still didn’t see everything. I guess it’s a good thing I got a membership so I could see the place whenever I want to for an entire year.
Besides the animals, which everyone already knows are awesome, the zoo is a great place to people watch and observe family and relationship dynamics. The month of October is also Free Kids Month which means kids get to go to the zoo for free in October. Of course, when I went there, the zoo was overrun with children, many of them seemingly even more wild than the wild animals and more devilish than the Tasmanian devils. (The animals seemed to have eaten their meals in the morning and then passed out or hid in their holes for the rest of the day.)
I’ve noticed, in general, that the younger kids tended to fall into two camps. One group still had energy in the afternoon to be excited about stuff. The other group got tired in the afternoon and either went to sleep (which was fortunate for their parents) or threw huge tantrums. Most zoos are large. The San Diego Zoo is especially large. There will be lots of walking unless you pay the $600 or so for the VIP treatment and get chauffeured around. I kind of wish that parents were more cognizant of whether their kids are the types who get tired fast and have the personality to scream in public without any qualms.
Anyways, my own annoyances are short-lived because I can always walk away from it. Parents, not so much. On the upside, the kids seem more enthusiastic. It’s the parents who keep tugging their fascinated offspring away from the exhibits claiming that there’s more to see up ahead. I guess they (the parents) feel that they should get their money’s worth by “seeing” as many things as possible.
Osawa, R. “Formation of a clear zone on tannin-treated brain heart infusion agar by a Streptococcus sp. isolated from feces of koalas.” Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 1990, 56: 829-831.
Osawa, R., Blanshard, W.H., Ocallaghan, P.G. “Microbiological Studies of the Intestinal Microflora of the Koala, Phascolarctos-Cinereus .2. Pap, a Special Maternal Feces Consumed by Juvenile Koalas.” Australian Journal of Zoology. 1993, 41: 611-620.
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