National Novel Writing Month 2018: Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo” from here on) every year since 2008. Granted, some years my participation has been better than others. And for the last few years I’ve certainly played fast and loose with the rules, such as they are (i.e. 50,000 new words of writing over the course of November). For 2015, 2016, and 2017 I spent NaNoWriMo revising the rough draft I wrote in 2014. This year I’m drifting even further from the standard and using the time to tackle a (for-funsies) translation project I should have finished ages ago but didn’t.

Some people juggle multiple projects at once; I tend to work one at a time. And while I do want to get that 2014 NaNoWriMo project done and dusted so I can move on to other writing, this translation project has drifted high enough in my priority queue that it’ll be easier to work on my fiction backlog once I get this translation thing out of the way. (Am I being fussy? Maybe.) For me, NaNoWriMo has become less and less about doing the actual thing of NaNo and more about harnessing a collective mania and drive to get my own creative endeavors done. Three months out of the year (if you include Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July) is a pretty hefty chunk of creative time, especially when you’re holding down other full-time work!

As usual, during NaNoWriMo the Stockholm Writing Group Meetup will be a weekly two-hour chunk of writing time you can count on, every Thursday from 6 to 8 PM. We have our own classroom in ABF, a great alternative for when cafes are too noisy and distracting. This week and next I’ll be helping people sign up on the site, answering questions, and providing some writing prompts to help you get you hyped up for your project. Join me, won’t you?

Friday 5: Lyrical Gangsta

A Caucasian hand holding a small sheet of paper with a typewritten poem.
Photo by Sarah Brink on Unsplash

What’s a stupid lyric from a song you like?

“Kilimanjaro rising like Olympus above the Serengeti” is one of the worst lyrics ever committed to record and yet it doesn’t ruin the song.

What’s a pretty good lyric from a song you dislike?

I refuse to give any song I dislike the satisfaction!

What’s a good non-Weird-Al-Yankovic lyric about food and drink?

“Alcohol” by Barenaked Ladies is a perennial favorite of mine.

What’s a good song lyric to describe your week?

I’m writing this entry far ahead of time, so I’ll have to do a bit of prognosticating here:

Sometimes I think sitting on trains
Every stop I get to I’m clocking that game.
Everyone’s a winner, now, we’re making that fame.
Bona fide hustler, making my name.

What’s a good song lyric about inclement weather?

I mean, it’s not the greatest lyric ever, but “thunder bolts and lightning / very, very frightening” deserves a mention. I guess the actual lyric about weather for its own sake I like best is from “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”:

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing.
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
‘Twas the witch of November come stealin’.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin’.
When afternoon came, it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck,
Saying, “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.”
At seven PM, a main hatchway caved in.
He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.”


Friday 5: Regionalisms

The LOVE statue in Philadelphia in front of a fountain on a clear summer day, with the Philadelphia Art Museum in the far distance.

What regional colloquialism in your area would baffle people from elsewhere?

This isn’t one that I use personally (I’m Philly-adjacent rather than proper Philly), but jawn can have such a broad usage that you really need context to understand what any particular usage is referring to.

I’ve been told by college friends from elsewhere in the US that “water ice” is a weird name for shaved ice/Italian ice/snow cones, but it seems logical to me: it’s ice plus (flavored sugar) water. “Hoagie” might or might not throw people for a loop as well. I still retain the regional habit of using “anymore” to mean “these days,” but I imagine it’s pretty clear what I mean when I say, “I’m just so tired anymore.”

What’s something you call by a name that differs from what most people in your region call it?

My mom calls them pocketbooks and I call them purses. I don’t know which one of us represents the majority term in southeastern Pennsylvania, though.

What’s a normal food in your region that people in other regions might be weirded out by?

I’ll cheat on this one and take an international perspective rather than my upbringing: Swedes are 100% chill with fruit on pizza, and my American friends are unjustly horrified at this.

What’s something in your area with an official name almost nobody refers to it by?

The Globe/Globen is technically the Ericsson Globe but no one calls it that. The accompanying arena is also technically the Tele2/Friends Arena, but I just think of it as “The Globe Arena.”

I wracked my brain for Philadelphia but couldn’t think of one. I didn’t realize until I was getting an image for this entry that Love Park’s official name is John F. Kennedy Plaza.

What are the names of some convenience stores in your area?

Wawa is the only convenience store.

Friday 5: Great and Small

Image courtesy Alan E

What’s your favorite large, furry animal?

Giraffes and okapis! (Or maybe okapi is both singular and plural?)

My darling okapis hover somewhere between threatened and endangered. Please consider donating to the Okapi Conservation Project.

What’s your favorite large sea creature?

Dolphins are jerks, and they’re not particularly large, but I still love them.

What’s your favorite insect?

Honeybees! Like okapis, they also need help. You can donate to conservation projects or plant bee-friendly native flowers in your garden. If you’re short on cash and garden space, you can join Simbi and support this “Johnny Appleseed for bees” project for free.

What are your favorite names for pets you’ve known?

A childhood friend had a hamster named Zamboni, which is a pretty great pet name, I think! When I was in Northern California a few years ago, my friend’s girlfriend at the time had a dachshund with the very appropriate name Vienna. Best Chemist Friend also has a history of cats with great names: Sterling, Tiger Lily, Feyd, and Bookcase.

Besides unicorns, what are some mythical beasts you wish were real?

I’ve never really desperately wanted unicorns to be real; I can take or leave them. A griffin or hippogriff would make a cool pet, and also double as a form of transportation. Why wait for the subway when you can just fly?

Friday 5: Repeat

What’s something you are repeatedly asked to prove?

I hate doing freelance taxes every year.

What’s an album you can listen to on endless repeat?

When I was doing evergreen content writing for a hot minute, I put Abbey Road on repeat while I worked. It’s not like I especially like the album; it’s more like there’s nothing on it I hate and it made good background noise. (I think “Golden Slumbers”/”Carry That Weight” are criminally short songs, though.)

What’s a story you’ve told several times?

Oh, any of my “one time in Korea” anecdotes, I’m sure.

What’s something you always order at a certain restaurant?

Best Chemist Friend and I were dedicated patrons of a local Italian restaurant throughout high school and our college years, and I always, always, always ordered the penne vodka. Grown up macaroni and cheese!

In what way do you hope this weekend will be exactly like last?

That tutoring will go well and that I’ll have plenty of time left over to myself to relax.

Friday 5: Performance Evaluation

In what way do you maintain a tidy and efficient workstation?

My dad bought this plaque for me when I was in high school and it says it all.

I make a concerted effort to keep my documentation collection lean and only keep things that seem like they might reasonably be necessary. That way, even if things aren’t always 100% organized, I have a good chance of either still knowing exactly where something is or of finding it right way if I don’t.

In what way do you maintain positive relationships with others?

I consider myself extremely easy-going and empathetic. There’s not much I take personally and I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt.

What effort do you take to be punctual?

I generally overestimate the time it takes to commute somewhere, and by which I mean, I leave a buffer for things like walking to and from the station, missing a train, etc. But now that we live on a new subway line, and a little further from the station, I have to readjust my default buffer. I’m still working it out, so I’m either five minutes late to things or forty-five minutes early.

What are your strengths and challenges in communicating effectively?

I have the best words.

Just kidding! I consider my words very carefully, though. Even when I’m not working, I tend to abide by the four C’s of editing: concision, clarity, coherence, and correctness in all of my communication. The challenge comes in with the fact that it takes me a long time to craft even the simplest email or message; I overthink things regardless of how important they are. I haven’t tracked how much time I spend compulsively re-reading emails before I hit “send,” but I’m sure it’s a not-insignificant amount of time.

What will be your focus for growth in the coming year?

Shifting into professional, full-time translation and leaving behind copyediting and EFL instruction.

Friday 5: Acromony

Pink magnetic plastic letters on a white background

When were you recently SOL?

My main computer, an HP Pavilion named Regan, has generally aged well and continued to perform well, fan replacement aside. But one issue seems to haunt this model of laptop, and that’s a crack in the left hinge, or in the case near the left hinge, and according to the guy who fixed my fan, there’s nothing to be done except replace the entire case. Between that and the new fan, I’d be halfway to a new computer.

So Regan will just continue to stand open, a desktop replacement rather than an actual portable computer, and I’ll hope that the problem is then a non issue for me until she gives up the ghost!

What was a recent SNAFU?

We moved over the summer, and we happened to move during some track renewal and repair on the Stockholm subway line. Unfortunately, we happened to move from the one unaffected green line to one of the two affected green lines, which added probably twenty to thirty minutes and two train changes to what should have otherwise been straightforward commutes.

From what social gathering were you most recently AWOL?

I missed this week’s Stockholm Writing Group Meetup to attend a lecture on Korean politics instead. This is the first Meetup I’ve missed since I stepped up as co-organizer, so I think I deserve it!

When has someone reminded you to MYOB?

Probably my sambo, just because we spend most of the day together.

What might get in your way this weekend as you TCB?

Take care of business, I presume? And I don’t know what might, really. Weird commutes to tutoring. Our move also entailed that what was once a simple 5-minute subway ride is now a 45-minute odyssey requiring overshooting the destination just to get on the right subway line or a meander-y local bus route to the right subway line. Sigh.

The Road to H E Double Hockey Sticks

What are some titles in your to-read stack?

My “to-read” shelf on GoodReads currently has over 200 books. I won’t name them all here; you can browse them yourself.

What are the highlights of this weekend’s to-do list?

I have a rush editing job to finish. (I should really be working on that now, I suppose! But I’m warming up a bit with some blogging now that I have my main computer back.) I also have some items to drop off at the secondhand store, and an old TV to take to the electronics recycling hut.

Which current or upcoming movies are you looking forward to?

I’m really curious about Paul Feig’s adaptation of A Simple Favor. I love his comedy, so it should be interesting to see what he does with a thriller.

What’s something you meant to do this past week that will have to wait until next week?

Trips to the secondhand store and recycling the old TV.

What’s an unfinished project (unrelated to media consumption) you haven’t touched in at least a year?

Something can’t be unfinished if you never started it! But I had grand plans for a bunch of chainmaille gel electrophoresis bracelets and DNA bracelets in different colors years ago  and then never did anything with it. The rest of my unfinished projects are less than a year old. 😉

Friday 5: Happy ARSLIT

What are your favorite and least favorite nuts?

I love pistachios! They’re delicious, but I also love the satisfaction of ripping them open and dislodging the actual nut. Most other nuts I’m pretty neutral  on. I like peanuts, of course, but they’re not nuts.

What are your favorite and least favorite berries?

Strawberries are the best berries, and I love Swedish summer, when Swedish strawberries are in season. Oh, and bananas: they’re technically berries! Otherise I love most other berries, though, except for blueberries.

What are your favorite and least favorite tropical fruits?

What counts as a tropical fruit? I love mangoes and pineapple, and when I’m in the right mood there’s nothing more satisfying than a Jeju orange. I don’t think I’ve met a tropical fruit I didn’t like, to be honest.

What are your favorite and least favorite varieties of M&Ms?

Original is best, peanut is the worst.

What are your favorite and least favorite raisin-containing foods?

Raisins are a delicious treat on their own! I don’t think there’s much that’s improved by adding them. The worst is that oatmeal raisin cookie that looks, at first glance, like chocolate chip. BETRAYAL.

“But it’s a DRY heat…”

Sweden is in the middle of the worst heat wave of the past forty years, and possibly in recorded history. In news that might or might not be related, my primary laptop is making sounds suggesting either overheating or the imminent death of my hard drive. Either way, my work computer is still in excellent condition, so this emergency isn’t as urgent as it might otherwise be. It does make all of the social-facing aspect of my work (blogging, Twitter, email) a little more tedious until I find a solution to whatever the problem is, but I assure you, we’re open!